Now that spring is rolling around and 2022 is really getting into full swing, we wanted to sit down with Brian Crow and talk to him about what we can expect from the Chestnut kitchen in the next few months.
We’ve mentioned before in recipe videos that we like to lean into seasonal and local ingredients as much as possible – what are you looking forward to for the coming spring menus in terms of ingredients?
Spring is an awakening period for everyone, as everything just starts to grow! It’s a time where seeds get put into the ground and we watch the fruits of our labors come into fruition. As I’m planning the April menu, the local farmers are letting me know what they have available. Specifically, everyone knows I get really excited about wild ramps but there is so much more coming our way as well and really opens up menu planning. Morel mushrooms are rare but perfect this time of year. Asparagus is in its prime state, strawberries will be coming bushels here soon, spring onions are great, spring peas add that little bit of sweetness that is amazing, leafy greens, rapini is great and so many unique varieties of radishes always makes it fun!
It seems like there’s always a host of new ideas on every menu – how does a menu item go from an idea to planning to the final plate?
Well, we try to hit our seasonal ingredients in their prime state not only because they will be the best quality but the quantity will be available to us. It’s a collaboration at Chestnut with all the cooks but mainly my sous chefs. We take a look at old menus and see what worked well and how we can play them differently or keep them the same. Costing comes into play of course too. Making sure that the menu is balanced on each station, so that one side isn’t getting busier than the other side is very important as well. Then we do an all staff tasting to garner any feedback from our creations and FOH feels strong about what we are presenting. This way everyone feels a part of the creative process and is empowered to give feedback whether good or bad.
Where does your inspiration come from when you make food? Is it books, movies, life experience, etc?
It comes from various situations. Definitely reading books, surfing the web is one way to do it but also just going to the farmers market or being in nature can really put myself in a creative space. Driving on the blue ridge parkway has always been a good source of inspiration as well. Meditation helps me stay focused and in the present and ultimately helps me in forming menus. There are also the nights where I can’t go to sleep because I just keep thinking about food. So, I will journal all my ideas down at that time.
If there were three pantry items that you could never do without, what do you think they might be?
Oh this is a tough question. Butter for sure. Salt and acid of some sort, probably lemon. However, I could keep going if you let me!
What new restaurants or food concepts in town are on your radar right now?
Asheville’s food scene keeps growing which is great! It feels amazing to be a part of such an ever growing hospitality small town. I don’t have any of the new concepts on my radar as of yet because I’m still trying to filter through all the established concepts that are already in place.