Monday, June 27, 2011

Ye Olde College Innterview

A statue of Saint stands guard over the garden which supplies Ye Olde College Inn. Crop yields are also helped by Archbishop Gregory Aymond's weekly meals. Two months ago Brad McGehee took over as Executive Chef of the historic kitchen. A native of the Bay Area (Francisco, not Louis), he originally came to New Orleans just for a quick internship. Several years later, he finds himself with a kitchen and a garden all his own. Let's put 20 ish questions on the clock.

I was always surrounded by good food through my family. I come from a family who really enjoys good wine and good food. Plus, I had a southern grandmother who always cooked classic southern food.

I've been in the restaurant industry since I was 14 years old, but before culinary school always in the front of the house. Graduated from the Culinary Academy of San Francisco in 2003 and came to New Orleans originally only for a 6 month internship at Commander's Palace under Tory McPhail. Been here ever since. Also, trained under Tom Wolfe at Wolfe's on the Lake, Peristyle, and Wolfe's in the Warehouse. Then went to work at the Ritz-Carlton under Matt Murphy.

It is fun to balance my style of food with the food that traditionally has been served at Ye Olde College Inn. I am a big advocate of using farm fresh food. The farm across the street certainly sparked my interest when they pitched the job to me. I am not going to take the veal chop off the menu, but I may serve it with some radishes or squash from across the street.

So far been pretty well-received by the regulars and they tell me to "keep it up." Really the specials are where I am able to show my creativity. And most importantly I am starting to get a pulse on what people want changed.

Getting new tools in the kitchen. Adding simple things like a blender or chinois in order to create better sauces. Or how to butterfly the shrimp in a certain way so they cook better. I am a big believer that it is doing the little things correctly which make a great meal.

Did a dish last night called Fig St. Farm Flatbread. Basic flatbread that I top with whatever is fresh from my walk through the garden that morning. For instance, recently has been flatbread topped with basil pesto, cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and some spicy shrimp. Sold 120 in three days as an app.

Nothing tackier than dollies and clouding on buffets. But hotels are doing it again. Wish they'd stop. It is really cheesy.

Anything fresh, especially vegetables. I find myself centering a dish on the vegetable rather than the protein now.

My slotted spoon. I use it for everything. It is an oversized slotted spoon that I always have at my station. I use it to finish plates at the pass, be it adding crabmeat or some other garnish.

I really like cooking for people who challenge me. We have a regular guy who is a real foodie. He came in the other night with some folks from Georgia. I went out and chatted with them and mentioned I had some great peaches from Chilton County, Alabama and that I heard they were the best peaches. So the people walk by to the guy's house and bring back Georgia peaches. So I cooked two dishes, one with Chilton peaches, one with Georgia peaches. Georgia won.

All of the above. If the customer wants to drink wine, we can do a refined dish. If they want beer, we can cook to that. It is whatever the occasion calls for.

Taqueria D.F. on Claiborne. I really like getting the green plate special from the Farmer's Market, and Ziggy's pastries from Maple St. Patisserie. I enjoy eating simple, casual food.

New Orleans can be frustrating for a young chef because it is such a small town. Tough coming in as an outsider. Everyone always asks me where I went to school, but they really want to know is where I went to high school. (Editor's note: McGehee married a local girl. She went to Dominican)

Joy of Cooking, Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, The French Laundry Cookbook, On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee.

As a young kid, we used to always go out to eat for holidays. I remember distinctly one time going to a brunch at a big hotel in San Francisco and being struck by food as entertainment. There was a guy flipping omelets, all the carved fruits, people everywhere. That was my first wow moment with food.

Gumbo, then the flatbread pizza, then finish up the meal with the Crawfish Delacroix which is baked redfish topped with crawfish etoufee and served with rice.

I am very anal when it comes to cleanliness in the kitchen. Comes from working under chefs who drilled that into me. Kitchen has to be clean.

Spend time with my family. The Blanchers, who own this place, are big family people and understand that people need time off. I had off for Father's Day off last Sunday, my first as a dad. That was the first holiday I've had off in 6 years.

Shrimp tacos. Grill shrimp, place in corn tortilla with some cilantro, diced red onion and chipotle mixed with sour cream. Squirt of lime. That's it.

No comments: