So I’m starting a new column here on the blog called ChefQ6.
Basically, I’m going to interview local chefs and see what they have to say about cooking, about life, about their kitchens.Enjoy.
Last night we popped into The Owl for dinner to check out Chef Aaron Manter’s menu 5.0. I’ve written about his restaurant several times for local papers and for the blog, so click on those links for the rundown. The new menu is earthy and warm and hearty, and completely bulldozes your taste buds. They won’t know what hit them.For our first course we ordered aged cheddar with vetiver honey, cranberry jam and lavash. Next course was barley risotto with egg yolk, smoked salt, beer vinegar and kale juice along with an order of sweet potato cooked in tandoori spice with mustard greens and cultured cream. The hubs ordered pork cheek with potato, cured olive oil, artichoke and carrot juice for his main course and I ordered the steak with aged butter, brussels sprouts, foie powder and spiced mustard. We definitely toured the menu. I swear every time we’ve eaten at his restaurant, my tongue and brain are exhausted when I leave. His food challenges the palate. And because of that, he rocks.
How did you come to be a chef? This is miserable work, in truth. Most of us become chefs because other options didn’t work out, or regular society didn’t want anything to do with you. For myself, it’s because I happen to be good at it, and I enjoy being creative. It also lets me not shave, have tattooed knuckles, and no one blinks.
What’s the strangest thing in your home fridge? The strange thing about my fridge is that there’s nothing in it but condiments and drinks. Every working chef I know eats terribly – and the last thing I want to do when I get off is cook. I subsist almost exclusively on the following items: pizza, scraps from the restaurant, cigarettes, and caffeine.
What is your go-to cookbook? My favorite cookbook is The Flavor Bible by Andrew and Paige Dornenburg. It’s not really a cookbook in that it has no recipes in it – just flavor pairings. This goes with that, that, that, and that. It’s idea sparks. The cookbook I’ve most recently been impressed with is Faviken by Magnus Nilsson – it’s incredible.
What is the first thing you remember making well? Steak. Simple as that. I learned how to gauge meat doneness very well.
What tool or ingredient can you not live without? I’m going to assume we’re excluding knives and salt here. In that case, the tool would be a well worn wooden spoon, and the ingredient would be Ultratex-8 – a thickening agent that adds no flavor and increases viscosity.
Three words that describe your restaurant kitchen. The. Wrong. Way. We do nearly nothing the way we’re “supposed to do it” by classic standards. Even the way we treat each other in The Owl kitchen is different than other restaurants. We have a saying: “If you’re yelling, you’re the asshole. Doesn’t matter if you’re right.” That’s far more rare than you would imagine. In fact, I know of no other place that operates that way. I’m sure it exists, but I’ve never seen it.