Raised in a small town outside of Columbia, SC, Buck learned the importance of teamwork while growing up on his family farm. This valuable life skill has been instrumental in his success as a chef and leader in Charleston-area kitchens.
After graduating from high school, Buck relocated to Charleston in pursuit of a career in the culinary arts. He spent the next six years learning from notable chef Craig Deihl, honing his skills before taking the helm at Middleton Place. During his tenure at Middleton Place, Buck had the opportunity to utilize his childhood experiences by implementing a garden that provided heirloom produce for the restaurant. He also became one of the first certified mushroom foragers in the state of South Carolina. After Middleton Place, Buck’s thirst for knowledge led him to Cassique at Kiawah Island, where he worked under consulting chef Tom Collichio for four years.
Buck’s philosophy on food has been shaped by his deep appreciation for the work of farmers and fish mongers. While his passion lies in Southern cuisine, he also relies on his German and Sicilian roots for inspiration. When not in the kitchen, Buck enjoys spending time with his wife, Jennifer, tending to his garden and playing with his two German Shepherds, Draco and Willow.
Joining Magnolias as sous chef in 1991, Don Drake continues to be one of the forces keeping Magnolias at the top of the nation's list for exceptional Southern food.
Prior to relocating to Charleston, Drake simultaneously attended the Culinary Institute of America and trained under Chef Barry Wine at the critically acclaimed, four-star Quilted Giraffe in New York City. Embarking on a culinary world tour after receiving his degree, Drake immersed himself in global cooking techniques, spending a majority of his time in London, Australia and Hawaii. Notably, Drake worked in Honolulu's celebrated Roy's mastering his culinary skills under famed Chef Roy Yamaguchi.
Integrating his international culinary background into the distinctively Southern meals for which Magnolias is legendary, Drake prepares dishes with surprising worldly flavors that remain true to the history and culture of their Lowcountry beginnings.
James Simmons’ Lowcountry roots span six generations, and with that family history, comes a keen understanding of Southern cuisine. Growing up, Simmons family gatherings were always centered on food. Both mother and grandmother were avid cooks who appreciated traditional Lowcountry fare with simple, consistent food, where the flavors of the food to speak for themselves, while cooking “low and slow”. These time-honored traditions have been passed down to Simmons and his siblings, so much so, that it’s a family affair at Hospitality Management Group, Inc., with brother Landice (sous chef) and brother Delon (kitchen manager) at Magnolias.
Simmons’ start in the culinary industry was at the young age of 16 when he joined the team at Magnolias in 1997. Under the influence of culinary arts director Don Drake and executive chef Kelly Franz, Simmons realized the value of hard work, paving his way to success as shift leader in 2007, sous chef in 2010 and most recently as executive sous chef at sister restaurant Blossom.
When not in the kitchen, he enjoys spending time with his wife Sheena and four children, Antonio, Curry, Jayla and most recent addition James, Jr. Their favorite pastime as a family is spent outdoors at local area parks.