John Martin Taylor

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John Martin Taylor

John Martin Taylor, also known as Hoppin' John, is an American food writer and culinary historian, best known for his expertise on the cooking of the American South, and, in particular, the foods of the lowcountry, the coastal plain of South Carolina and Georgia.[1] The New York Times referred to him as "the lowcountry food maven" in a 2006 travel article about Charleston’s culinary scene.[2] He is often credited with restoring many traditional southern dishes, and he advocated the return to stone-ground, whole-grain, heirloom grits and cornmeal production. Gourmet magazine said of Taylor in a March 2006 article: "Artisanal food supplier and cookbook author John Martin Taylor...fueled the back-to-the-stone-ground-grits movement.... Taylor's coarse grits and more finely ground cornmeal are used as polenta from Puglia to Puget Sound."[3] Charleston Magazine named Taylor one of the city's Top 100 Most Influential people in its 337-year history: "Before Hoppin' John's Lowcountry Cooking was published in 1992, Charleston cuisine was unfocused. Thanks to Taylor, we took pride in our produce, seafood, biscuits, and sweet tea. And foodies of the world agreed."[4][full citation needed] In an article that originally appeared in The Atlanta Journal, the culinary historian Karen Hess is quoted as saying, "I don't know of anyone who has done more for Southern cookery." The author of the article added, "Taylor has a Capote-esque acid wit, boyish charm and all-consuming passion for food that has won the writer a faithful following."[5]

Early years[edit]

Taylor was born in Louisiana, but moved to the similar terrain of the South Carolina lowcountry when he was 3. The son of scientists, he spent much of his youth aboard the family’s boats. His mother was an adventurous cook and cookbook collector and his father was a wine lover. He earned an undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Georgia (UGA) in 1971. For several years he freelanced as a photographer, and in 1977 he earned a Masters in Film, also from UGA.[6]

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Taylor lived in the Caribbean, Paris, and Genoa, Italy. In 1983 he joined the nascent staff of the French-language magazine, Ici New York, as their American Liaison and Food Editor. He has written for The New York Times, Gourmet, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, The Washington Post, Country Home, The Journal of Gastronomy, Gastronomica, Fine Cooking, Copia, and Cooking Light.[7]

Charleston Food & Wine Festival profiles John Martin Taylor's culinary history.[8] John was profiled in his alma mater's University of Georgia Magazine.[9]


In 1986, Taylor opened his culinary bookstore, Hoppin' John's, in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. He had begun researching the culinary history of the area after interviewing the scholar Karen Hess on the history of Thanksgiving. In 1989, Charleston was struck by Hurricane Hugo. Taylor wrote his first book in the year that his business was closed for repairs. He was instrumental in forming the downtown farmers’ market in Charleston, where he sold stone-ground grits and cornmeal. When he reopened the store, he expanded it to include a cooking school. He closed the storefront in 1999, but continues to sell his corn products online.[7][non-primary source needed]


After Hoppin' John's Lowcountry Cooking (1992), Taylor wrote The New Southern Cook (1995), The Fearless Frying Cookbook (1997), and Hoppin’ John’s Charleston, Beaufort & Savannah (1997), which featured Taylor's photography as well as his history and recipes.[10][11]

Hoppin' John's Lowcountry Cooking, Taylor’s first book, was called "the prototype for any serious regional American cookbook" by Madeleine Kamman.[12] His first book was included in a roundup of intellectual food books by The New York Times in 1992.[13] Jeffrey Steingarten wrote an extensive article about Taylor and lowcountry cooking in the November 1993 Vogue. In the article, he calls the book Hoppin' John's Lowcountry Cooking "the best regional cookbook in many years".[14] The Los Angeles Times profiled him when the book was released in 1992, calling Taylor the "national champion of lowcountry cuisine".[15] Southern Living Magazine calls the cookbook "scholarly" and includes quotes from chefs Sean Brock (of restaurants McCrady's and Husk) and Robert Stehling (of Hominy Grill) about Taylor's influence.[16]

His second book, The New Southern Cook, was included in a roundup of southern classics by The New York Times in 1995.[17] USA Today included The New Southern Cook in their roundup of Critics' Choices for 1995-1996. For the article, "The Critics' Choice 1995-96", Today's First Edition and the San Francisco Review of Books presented favorite authors and books as selected by 25 media writers from U.S. magazines, newspapers and broadcast media.[18] Edward Behr of The Art of Eating said of The New Southern Cook: "There is simply no finer cookbook for the great food of coastal South Carolina".[19]

The New York Times Magazine called The Fearless Frying Cookbook "extremely user-friendly" and it was predicted to "eventually become the bible on the topic".[20] Ed Levine's Serious Eats site calls his book on frying "perhaps the definitive book" on the subject.[21] The Fearless Frying Cookbook was also recommended by the Los Angeles Times as one of their best holiday gift books in 1997.[22]

He was a founding member of the Southern Foodways Alliance.[23]

Gourmet Magazine has mentioned, featured, and published articles written by Taylor beginning in the 1980s. Their online archives (which do not catalog these earlier articles) have included two articles from the 2000s that are written by Taylor: "Charleston's True Grits"[24] and "Pretty in Pink".[25]

Taylor continues to write about his life, travels, and meals on his blog, He is a consultant to the food industry and a popular speaker at museums and symposia throughout the country. In 2010, he spoke at the Historic New Orleans Foundation, Monticello, and the Smithsonian. He was also the Keynote Speaker at the International Corporate Chefs Association and grand marshal of Pig Island Celebration in New York.[26]

Taylor currently splits his time between Savannah, Georgia, and Washington, DC.


  1. ^ Nancy Harmon Jenkins, The New York Times Magazine, "FOOD; COASTAL LEGACY" (January 22, 1989).
  2. ^ Apple, R. W., Jr., The New York Times, "A Southern Star Rises in the Lowcountry" (March 15, 2006).
  3. ^ Lear, Jane Daniels, Gourmet Magazine, "Polenta: It's All in the Grist – Er, Wrist" (March 2006).
  4. ^ Charleston Magazine (November 2007).
  5. ^ Wendell Brock, Orlando Sentinel, "Ambassador Hoppin' John/ Flamboyant Author John Martin Taylor Shares His Enthusiasm For The Foods Of South Carolina" (June 12, 1997) abbreviated version of original article published by The Atlanta Journal.
  6. ^ John Martin Taylor,, "The B-52s and Me" (February 16, 2008).
  7. ^ a b John Martin Taylor,, "About me and my work and my products" (June 23, 2007).
  8. ^ Charleston Food & Wine Festival, "John Martin (Hoppin' John) Taylor" Archived 2012-09-03 at the Wayback Machine (accessed September 26, 2012).
  9. ^ Michael McLaughlin, University of Georgia Magazine, "Cookin' history with Hoppin' John" Archived 2012-09-15 at the Wayback Machine (September 2001).
  10. ^ John Martin Taylor,, "John's Books"[permanent dead link] (retrieved August 29, 2012).
  11. ^ Barnes & Noble, "books by John Martin Taylor" (retrieved September 26, 2012).
  12. ^ Kamman, Madeleine, quoted on dust jacket of Hoppin' John's Lowcountry Cooking, Bantam Books, 1992.
  13. ^ Nancy Harmon Jenkins, The New York Times, "KITCHEN BOOKSHELF; For the Night Stand, a Library Of Intellectual Bedtime Snacks" (April 22, 1992).
  14. ^ Jeffrey Steingarten, Vogue, "Going South" (November 1993).
  15. ^ Anne Mendelson, Los Angeles Times, "Serve It Fourth : Lowcountry Cooking: Eat It Fast Before It Disappears" (July 2, 1992).
  16. ^ Donna Florio, Southern Living Magazine, "The Lowcountry Love Affair Started Here" (September 7, 2012).
  17. ^ Yanick Rice Lamb, The New York Times, "Southern Cookbooks, From Low Fat to Fatback" (August 23, 1995).
  18. ^ USA Today, "The Critics' Choice 1995-96" (2002).
  19. ^ Ed Behr's Facebook page (accessed September 26, 2012).
  20. ^ Jonathan Reynolds, The New York Times, "Food; Fear of Frying" (March 4, 2001).
  21. ^ Ed Levine, Serious Eats, "Sunday Brunch: Hoppin' John's Cornbread" (August 17, 2008).
  22. ^ Los Angeles Times, "Some of the year's best cookbooks for giving" (December 3, 1997).
  23. ^ Southern Foodways Alliance, The Southern Foodways Alliance Cookbook, University of Georgia Press, 2010.
  24. ^ John Martin Taylor, Gourmet Magazine, "Charleston's True Grits" Archived 2012-08-07 at the Wayback Machine (January 2003).
  25. ^ John Martin Taylor, Gourmet Magazine, "Pretty in Pink" Archived 2014-04-05 at the Wayback Machine (October 2002).
  26. ^ John Martin Taylor,, "Some Recent Work" (May 6, 2010).