Chef Chris Williams says cooking has always been a part of him. He’s been in the kitchen since he was nine years old, getting paid to cook since he was 15 and even when he was working in other professions, his life has always centered around food.

The newly named South Carolina Chef Ambassador is chef/owner of Roy’s Grille in Lexington, a restaurant serving everything from brisket to house made cured bacon and pimento cheese in an unexpected space. Pull up to the Exxon gas station on West Main Street and you find Chef Williams in the back, cooking and chatting with customers like everyone is an old friend.

“Cooking is pretty much a part of me at this point,” he said. Roy’s Grille has been in Lexington for seven years. It is named after Williams’ grandfather.

“I call this Roy’s Grille after my maternal grandfather. He passed a few years before I opened the restaurant so when I got this opportunity, I was struggling with what I was going to name it. And then I said it one day and it just stuck and Roy’s Grille it was,” he said.

Williams said the his menu has evolved with the restaurant. In the beginning he had steaks on the menu and blackened chicken Alfredo. He started doing barbecue one day a week, and it became popular. The rest is history. 

“People would show up looking for that and that created a need for me to do it every day because they were showing up seven days looking for the barbecue,” he said. “So that’s what drove the interest for me to do barbecue at the restaurant. At first, I had a barbecue sandwich on the menu but that was it.”

Now customers can get everything from barbecue – whether it’s brisket, pulled pork or ribs – and all the sides that come with it such as fried okra, collard greens, mac-n-cheese and hash and rice.  Or customers can enjoy get a freshly ground burger made with ground chuck from the local meat market. Williams said he make his own patties, they’re never frozen, and he marinates pork chops or you can get chicken wraps or nachos; there is variety on the menu.

“I try to do different specials like today, I’m going to attempt to roll some eggrolls for a lunch special,” he said.

The location of Roy’s Grille is not lost on Chef Williams. While some may think of it as simply being in the back of a gas station, Williams remembers going into restaurants like that in his small hometown and getting some of the best food he’s had. Many great cooks and chefs are serving up delicious and memorable food in unexpected spaces.

“(Those restaurants) used to be the heartbeat of the town, man,” he said. “I’m from a small town, Olar, and some of the best food – the best chili dogs I ever had –  was out of that gas station. You can’t beat it.”

Williams, who also has a full service catering business, said he is honored to be chosen as a. 2022 Chef Ambassador by Discover South Carolina and welcomes the attention that comes with it.

“It’s exciting to have people who want to talk about me,” he said. “That is a blessing within itself – just to be recognized for all of your hard work. I’m not doing anything different than I’ve always done it’s just people are paying attention and we’re being recognized. It’s an honor and a privilege, so I’m grateful.”