Jerrett King

O.A.K. (One of a Kind) Prime Restaurant & Bar
Myrtle Beach
Chef Swap Ingredient:
Black Truffle Butter
Cuisine Style:

Jerrett King hoped to be a professional basketball player but ended up courting his own kitchen as an owner and an executive chef. His deferred dream of a NBA life actually gave him the life he loves playing for one dish at a time.


About Jerrett King

Jerrett King is a quiet, confident kitchen assassin.

The man is not showy and he is not conceited, but he knows he is a chef to keep an eye on.

Whenever he stands in the kitchen at O.A.K. (One of A Kind) Prime Kitchen and Bar in Carolina Forest, where he is executive chef and part owner, he is meticulous about the details of every dish he prepares.

Perfection is the constant goal. The aim is to please every palate. King is confident his prowess and astute staff will get the restaurant to the top of the heap of more than 2,000 eateries along the Grand Strand.

“Everybody here has a passion for what we do,’’ King said. “We all love what we do. I have a supporting cast around me. We want to be the best restaurant in Myrtle Beach – and we will.”

His competitive spirit, he thinks, is the residual left from his days as a shooting guard with the Myrtle Beach High School Seahawks. He was one of the kids that believed he had a future playing basketball. He didn’t think he was Michael Jordan. Nonetheless, King thought he could do the thing well enough to make a career of it.

That story, however, was rewritten. The hoop dreams ended abruptly. King realized the NBA was out of reach. What happened was simple. He became a dad at 15.

Terror gripped him, and King didn’t know what to fancy for his future.

His mother, Sharon Livingston Lewis, told him, “I’m not going to help you. This is your responsibility. You made this bed. You’re going to have to lay in it.’’

The summer before he got his then-girlfriend pregnant, King had worked in a movie theater. He never imagined embarking on a career at such a young age. Work was mandatory and no longer optional.

“I was scared,’’ he said. “I’m still scared.”

Since his father wasn’t in his life, he wanted to make certain he was a present, steady dad.

“It took a lot out of me, said King, who now has four daughters. “I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to think. I just knew I had to support her. So, I started working.”

Kitchens, Not Courts

King went from playing in front of crowds to finding his way as a grunt in the restaurant industry. He went from being a local teenager getting press because of his plays to landing a job at a pizza place called The Filling Station.

He and his only brother, Jeffery, started working there. He bussed tables, washed dishes, prepped food, and popped pizzas into the oven. Early on, the tethers of basketball were still stringed in his heart. Maybe, just maybe, this game would go into overtime. Perhaps he would win at both – being a dad and superstar athlete one day.

Quickly, King found that being responsible demanded that he take the focus off himself and his desires and dedicate whatever productivity and strength he could muster to caring for his daughter.

“Instead of going to exposure camps to get my name out there and get ranked,’’ he said. “I had to work. So being a dad deflected a lot of things as far as playing basketball.”

An individual offered to help him return to basketball, but his daughter was nearly 3. She was now his heart, and he refused to pass off his most important job to anyone else.

Still, King admittedly was navigating his existence without a plan. He was driving the roads of life minus a map.

He graduated high school in June 2004, ended the relationship with his toddler’s mother that August, and then entered into another relationship and moved to Columbia.

“My daughter’s mother and I would meet every other weekend in Florence, and I would take my daughter to spend time with me,’’ King said.

He got a job at a bar and grill in the state’s capital as a server. Then, he left that job for employment at FedEx. After he and his Columbia girlfriend parted ways, he took a job transfer to Newark, New Jersey, where he lived with a cousin. All was going well – or so he thought – until he had to go to court for child support.

He flew home, went to court, and planned to return to Newark and FedEx. However, Scottie Cooper told him he couldn’t return.

“My cousin said, ‘You are always running from your problems. You need to face your problems and stop running,’’’ King said. “I was angry at the time, but he was right.”

Now, in his early 20s, he couldn’t still process plans for his life. He was on autopilot, doing what he knew to make money to care for his daughter.

King joined his brother, a kitchen manager at Dirty Don’s Oyster Bar & Grill.

“I was shadowing my brother,” King said. “Figuring out inventory, how to order food and other things he had been doing for a while that involved managing a kitchen.”

This Genesis moment allowed King into the kitchen, and he started cooking food there as he cooked it at home. It wasn’t fancy food, but it was good.

“I just started cooking there, and I made the food the way I made it at home,’’ King said. “I made burgers, fish sandwiches, or whatever.”

Soon, all the female servers began asking him to prepare their food. His brother told him it was because he was cute -- which is probably partially true . However, the indisputable fact was that King was burgeoning into a chef not to be ignored.

One day, while he and his brother were taking a break from work, the general manager asked the siblings a question – would one of them be willing to help out at a new location?

Jeffrey King gave a swift no, but his baby brother was all in.

Off he went to the location at Barefoot Landing. That beginning was the spark ending in a big bang.

The concise result was this: King gained his crown by working 100 hours a week between the two locations for more than two years, gained the accolades of superiors, and eventually moved on to study under a top chef while researching the intricacies of fine dining on his own.

He climbed the mountain by laboring long and never averting his attention from the fact that he had the latitude and attitude to win.

“I am the kind of person that if you show me once I’ve got it,’’ King said. “If you show me something twice, I can do it. If you show me three times, I can do it better than you. I’m that good, and that’s the mindset I have.”

The Finals

Food at O.A.K. Prime Kitchen and Bar is a testament to talent pouring out of King’s brain and running into his fingers. The pageantry of his plates and its indelible impact on palates are undeniably prodigious.

Say hello to the Smoked Wagyu Meatloaf. It is magnificence in the mouth. The levels of flavor in each bite are supernatural. The sweet-sour tangy notes emerge from the blackberry chipotle glaze intersecting with Guinness caramelized onion gravy. The moist, immaculate wagyu meat makes standard meatloaf mad. Underneath this royal meatloaf is an impressive mound of silky roasted garlic mashed potatoes that will woe any garlic fan. At the top? Crispy Vidalia onions, made in-house, crown the main course texture and earthy sweetness that is the 3-pointer at the buzzer – it wins the championship of meatloaves.

King takes to the court of fine dining cooking, stands at the perimeter, makes a shot, and gets all net. What he does in the kitchen is what he used to do as a high-school basketball star.

He is pulled out of the game mostly at home because his wife, Toni, does most of the cooking. When he does come off the bench, he makes chicken nuggets, steak, ribs, and other fixings for his family.

"I love his collard greens,'' Toni King said. "They are vinegary with a smoky flavor to them. Jerrett is also talented at making different sauces. Whatever he does is going to be phenomenal."

When he comes out of the kitchen on a day when guests have yet to arrive, he sits at the bar and surveys the realm of his domain. It is a lovely, quaint spot with an interior design flaunting shades of emerald green fabric covering chairs and booths with tiger motifs imposed into some of the seating.

Although King wasn't instrumental in the interior design – Stephanie Roberts, the wife of co- owner Chris Roberts – and others took care of the posh look. Yet, the tiger’s presence in the décor does speak to who King is this day – a culinary beast.

“He is such a good guy who knows what he’s doing,’’ Chris Roberts said. “He is thorough and honest. He has good intentions. He is 100 percent consistent and talented.”

Janice Seitz, a prep chef at O.A.K., said King is kind-of-sort-of a micromanager and someone who freely shares his knowledge. She also calls him a confidante.

“I’ve learned a lot from his as a chef, and I’m still learning a lot,’’ Seitz said.

King is still a student, not just a teacher. And as both, he is committed to playing the game and coaching along the way. O.A.K. is his court, and nobody will dominate his state of supreme sustenance.

“I take pride in what I do, and I want to be the best at what I do,’’ King said. “I don’t know if that comes from me being a competitor playing basketball, but if I am going to do something –I am going to do it right.”

By Johanna Wilson Jones

“I am the kind of person that if you show me once I’ve got it. If you show me something twice, I can do it. If you show me three times, I can do it better than you. I’m that good, and that’s the mindset I have.”

Jerrett King
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