He's a top quality, extremely creative, and passionate chef who, like the best teachers, considers himself to be constantly learning and perfecting his craft.
Things to take note of in my opinion are his knowledge of biology and chemistry as well as his deep study of his art that he uses to continue to improve. It was a real treat. My only wish is that I could record every conversation we've had because I learn something new every time we go in.
Listen to the podcast and interview we put out this morning with the interview. The restaurant/bar/brewery was crowded so it's loud and can be difficult to hear. It's a popular place with great food. Sorry I'm not sorry. You can read a rough transcript of the interview below. Follow us on iTunes!
Hope to see you all tomorrow at the Welcome Back to School event from 3:30 to 6:30pm at Brain Dead Brewing tomorrow, Wednesday, August 12th.
Is this the first place you’ve been in charge of creating the menu?
No, I was executive chef at Palomino and Henry’s Tavern in Shops at Legacy in Plano so I redid all those menus, ran all the features, and here I did the whole menu top to bottom
When did you first start cooking? When did you start wanting to cook?
I always wanted to cook. When I was young, 3 or 4, I was in the kitchen rolling out biscuits with my grandfather, or cooking chili, or out by the smoker making fajitas. So I was always interested. Both my parents worked and my brothers and I would get home from school and would be left to our own devices until they got home from work. There’s only so much pizza and hamburger helper you can eat you can eat so I started watching the frugal gourmet and some of those other TV cooking shows and started cooking.
Most people say their mom or grandmother taught them to cook. You said grandfather. That’s very unique.
Yeah, he lived in Tyler and we’d visit a couple times a year and I always remember being in the kitchen with him the whole time. My dad cooked a little bit and my mom couldn’t really cook and so I kind of just took it upon myself to figure it out.
What was his signature dish?
Biscuits and gravy
Which is the most difficult?
I think brisket just because of the patience it takes to make it. He would smoke his for upwards of 18 hours and it would take him all day to do it.
What makes a good brisket?
Depends on the cut honestly. Different parts of the cow react differently to heat and different things. The higher the connective tissue content, like brisket, the higher the collagen content the tougher the meat will be and the tougher the muscles work while the cow is alive, the tougher that it will be. Brisket comes from the chest plate. Think of it constantly doing a pushup. That’s why its’ rich and flavorful and has a lot of intermuscular fat and flavor, but it’s really tough. SO usually it requires a long slow cooking like a braise or smoking that has a high moisture content that will break down the collagen and turn it into a nice tender meat.
One thing a lot of people don’t realize about cooking is that it is a lot of biology and chemistry. Where did you get all of that knowledge? Naturally or books?
I read a lot of books. On Food and Cooking by Herald McGee is a phenomenal book. Molecular Gastronomy (Hervé This) which was just a fun book to read. The Culinary Institute of America’s The Professional Chef is an awesome resource book There’s a lot of good information in there, James Beard’s American Cookery. A lot of different cooking books.
Did you go to culinary school?
I did not.
Where’d you jump from home cook to professional chef?
I was going to school for computer engineering at the University of Oklahoma on scholarship. I broke my ankle in my final year of school. I had 13 credits left to graduate and I couldn’t go to school and had to drop all my classes. Got a little depressed, and always loved to cook. It kind of ignite4d a fired under me and I decided I’m going to do something I love. I started out as a dishwasher and prep cook when I was 21, became a kitchen manager by the time I was 22 and I’ve been running kitchens ever since.
How did you come up with this menu?
When I was thinking of the menu for here, I wanted us to be busy for happy hour. I think we have a good opportunity for business lunches so I put on several sandwiches. Because I thought we’d be busy for happy hour, not just lunch, so I put on several appetizers. Caldo de pollo is a soup my grandmother used to make that is awesome and delicious. I’ve always love chicharrónes. That’s basically just pork rinds, but we make them here in house.
Queso, were’ in Texas. I use real cheese, fresh roasted tomato salsa, grass fed beef, and the chips are fried in freshly rendered lard. It’s basically like a trip to Mexico without booking the flight. Popcorn is just fun. When you’re drinking, popcorn work. I use the chips and salsa to make the queso. So, it’s fresh every day and the next day it goes in the queso. That way I always have fresh salsa, and the lime and cilantro flavor kind of die off the next day so I make it make it fresh every day then the next day it goes in the queso.
Steak salad I designed as a guy salad. I wanted that for business lunches. Our house salad I wanted to have a nice small salad for someone that wasn’t very hungry. Our market fish salad, I love fresh fish, so all the fish I get is wild gulf caught, sustainably caught, or Texas farmed raised. So I don’t have tuna, I don’t have salmon, I don’t have any of that stuff. I’ll have grouper, I’ll have flat fish, I’ll have flounder. I’ll have tile fish. That kind of stuff.
What advice do you have for people that want to cook fish?
Most people if you have a whole fish don’t have the basic butchering skills to break down a whole piece of meat. That’s I think a big issue in terms of going form a home cook to an experienced chef. Those butchering skills just come with practice. Until you break down 10, 15, 20 catfish you’re not going to get real good at it. Until you break down 15, 20 pork shoulders, you’re not going to understand where the bones are and how to break them down.
There’s’ different types of fish, different ways to fillet them. Flat you fillet different then round, but once you understand where the ribs are and you have a nice sharp knife, you can do just about anything. It just takes a little practice
As a teacher, we have students who are interested in knowing if it’s possible to be successful without everything school demands. Is it possible for students to come work, learn, and watch chefs?
They’d have to be at least 18 because of the slicers, the floors we have, safety purpose. I don’t mind when we slow down bringing someone in and walking them around. I love teaching people. That’s something we can definitely do. At least 18 to work in the kitchen then we can go from there.
Is there a particular type of music that centers you / gets you in the zone?