Name: Tim Benton
Position: Sous Chef
How long have you worked for Chestnut? I’ve worked at Chestnut since March 2014.
What is your favorite dish at Chestnut? One the things I love most about Chestnut is how often we rotate our menu. Actually, that was probably the number one factor that drew me here in the first place. To get specific though, I’m really excited by the new Grilled Maitake on our upcoming menu. There’s almost nothing better than a properly cooked Maitake.
If you could travel anywhere in the world where would it be? This is a tough one. My head says I should pick somewhere maybe edgy and unusual, like Iran or something but my heart says Sicily. I had the opportunity growing up to eat all this amazing food that my mother and grandmother cooked that was their interpretation of Sicilian food. I’d really love to go to the source and get to know some of those dishes as they were before they passed through the American lens.
What life lessons have you learned from working in the service industry? Working in this industry has taught me how to harness my anxiety and give it some sort of direction, to turn it into positive action. Everything is so acute and immediate during a busy service that you’re really forced to reckon with your own character and your makeup, which can be challenging but it’s great because you’re given the chance to come back and improve on those things you don’t like literally the next day.
What has your most memorable experience with a guest been? Probably the most memorable was being in the kitchen restraining myself from going out into the dining room and professing my adoration to Woody Harrelson when he came in to eat with us. I’ve cooked for a few celebrities before but that was the closest I’ve ever come to walking into the dining room and making an ass of myself.
If the President was coming in (past or present) and you could cook them one thing, what would it be? I know Jefferson was a huge lover of food and wine. I’d love to create a menu for TJ with some wine pairings that highlighted how far wine-making has come in the US and that also shows off the incredible bounty that’s available to us here in Appalachia.
Someone you would love to cook for? What would you cook them? I mentioned how my mother and her mother created these incredible meals that I got to eat growing up (and they were incredible) but it was really probably my father’s father that influenced me the most growing up. He was, in essence, a farm boy from Central New York and he cooked and ate like a farmer, which is to say: simply and well. Even after traveling the globe during World War Two and graduating from an Ivy League University, he really appreciated simple and unpretentious things, especially when it came to food. He passed a few years back but I’d love to cook a meal for him and my grandmother one more time. I think I’d make them rhubarb glazed pork chops with an arugula salad, fennel, and pickled strawberries. I wouldn’t bother with dessert because nothing in this world ever stood a chance in his estimation when compared to my grandmother’s berry pies.