Jesse Blanco’s TV show “Eat It and Like It,” now in its fifth season, has profiled Hilton Head Island restaurants and purveyors on the show including Annie O’s, Lucky Rooster, The Purple Cow, Old Fort Pub and many others.
The show airs at 7:30 a.m. Sundays on WSAV-TV.
Unlike most food and travel shows, no fees are charged for this exposure. Instead, Blanco selects his features the good, old-fashioned way – based on the good things he discovers and hears about eateries.
“The food scene on Hilton Head Island has always been a few steps ahead of anything else in this area,” Blanco said. “It is a large part of what made the island so popular. It’s nice to have a beautiful house on the beach or a place to play golf, but unless there are great restaurants, then it’s just not the same.”
Across the bridges, too, is a food lover’s paradise.
“What is going on in Bluffton, meanwhile, is nothing short of amazing,” Blanco said. “So much good food popping up there. I’m even hearing about restaurants in Savannah expanding to Bluffton. That will tell you how they feel about the area.”
In addition to hosting the popular television show, Blanco is just as happy to be in the kitchen whipping up his original recipes. “I wish I could say I had a grandmother who cooked and I learned from her,” he said. “Truthfully? My original inspiration to cook came from a TV show way back in the day on the Discovery Channel called ‘Great Chefs.'”
Later on, Chef Emeril Lagasse’s dishes inspired him when he had an opportunity to work with the famous New Orleans chef. “I consider myself lucky to have worked for him for a short time back in 1998,” Blanco said.
As a political science major, Blanco said he grew up “wanting to be the next Ted Koppel” but ended up in sports for 13 years. Later, he made the switch to news and became a TV anchor, finally leaving broadcasting to focus on food journalism.
The “Eat It and Like It” 2016 Foodie Awards ceremony recently presented awards (which resemble the Oscar statuette) to HH Prime Omni Resort in the Best Steak category, and again to HH Prime Omni Resort in the category of Best Burger (co-winner with Savannah’s Betty Bombers) and to Pomodori in Best Italian category.
Bluffton winners include Midnight Bakers in the Best Bakery category, Corner Perk Café in Best Coffee Roaster category and The Bluffton Room in Best Place to Blow An Entire Paycheck category.
This latter category reflects Blanco’s sense of humor but also shows that if fine dining is what people are looking for, it’s right here.
“The idea all along has been to share our region with the South and the South with our region,” Blanco said. “The show has always been about the South.”
Carrie Hirsch is a freelance writer and videographer on Hilton Head Island.