Chris Schlattman of The Upton on Porter-isms, Christopher Gross, and Matt Carter's The House
Chris Schlattman Executive Chef The Upton 7216 E. Shoeman Lane, Scottsdale www.TheUptonaz.com
Until recently, chef Chris Schlattman's goal in the kitchen, he says, was to learn -- and then leave.
When he wanted to learn about sugar, he got a job as a pastry chef. When he wanted to learn about molecular gastronomy, he staged for a week and landed a job at Grant Achatz's Alinea in Chicago. He wanted to learn about resort cooking, so he went to T. Cook's.
At each job, he learned what he wanted to know. Then he split.
"That's what cooks do when they're young," Schlattman says. "You're basically a thief. You steal information."
So for years he bounced around town cooking and learning -- until he landed at Petite Maison. Chef James Porter, Schlattman says, opened his eyes for the first time to the "business" part of the restaurant business.
"I had just wanted to be filling my head with information," Schlattman says. "[Business] was something I had never really cared about, a completely different mentality."
Schlattman spent three years working under Porter, who owned and operated Petite Maison from its opening in 2009 until it closed last year. And when you consider that Schlattman was Porter's number two for most of that time, it's easy to understand why the younger man loves foie gras and a glass of scotch, very much like his mentor.
Turn an ear toward the restaurant's kitchen and you might even hear some "Porter-isms," as Schlattman calls then.
But similarities aside, if one things for sure, it's that The Upton is not Petite Maison.
There are French influences on Schlattmans's menu, but the three-month-old restaurant is not a French dining establishment. It's the thyme-marinated fried chicken, a Southern-inspired dish, that's already becoming a signature item. And the one item Schlattman says he'd never take off the menu? Miso vegan ramen with organic tofu.
Schlattman says the French chef in him felt the need to put foie and bone marrow on the menu, though. So to kill two birds with one stone, the chef created a bone marrow dish made with foie gras pate -- served, of course, with a sidecar of scotch.
As far as The Upton's early success, Schlattman says, the place is still "finding itself." But he also says he welcomes the challenges brought by criticism. In light of negative feedback about the restaurant's happy hour, Schlattman says he's getting ready to scrap and redo the whole thing.
"I want to earn a buck the right way," Schlattman says, "with a customer who's excited to pay it."
What's your favorite dish on the menu right now?
Hands down, the bone marrow. This is, I think, my brainchild of just eating foie and bone marrow for so long. I wanted to combine the two, and I wanted to combine them in a way that was super fun. I take the marrow out of the bone, make a great pate with foie, put it back in like it never left -- so you're like, "Oh yeah, that's a standard bone marrow." But really it's this completely perfect little dish with salt and fat. Once I pour sugar over it and brulee, it's a dish that hadn't seen before.
What do you prefer as your sidecar?
Scotch. Scotch-y scotch. All day long in my sidecar.
What's your scotch of choice?
Oooh. I mean, I'm a strictly Laphroaig kind of guy. My scotch knowledge is terrible because I just started drinking it. It's delicious.
What is your favorite "Porter-ism," as you say?
My favorite Porter-ism [is] probably the "jib-jab." The jib-jab is basically a reference to any kind of mis en place or any kind of food as a garnish. You know, "Yeah, just put the jib-jab on there and then it will be good to go." "You know what that needs? A little more jib-jab." Or, if somebody didn't put enough garnish or enough on the plate, he's refer to it as, "It's not a closely guarded secret by the Chinese. Why are you keeping that in your drawer?" Something along those lines. But, yeah, "jib-jab."
What's your go-to place for simple food and late-night eats?
Besides this one that I never leave? If I want something simple, I go to The House. I do. Because I love their food. They have smaller portions of stuff that I can try. It's ever-changing. And the chefs over there are just awesome. I super-like it. It's like my little hideaway. If you want to try to find me on a Monday, I'm probably bellied up to the bar over at The House enjoying some of Matt Carter's digs.
And as far as late-night, you can catch me over at EVO having a bowl of pasta. They got a great late-night thing going. I recommend the short rib pasta with an egg.
One local chef that you admire and why:
Christopher Gross. Christopher Gross to me, is kinda like my -- I don't know. Like a little kid and Michael Jordan. I've worked with a lot of great chefs. I've gotten to work with Thomas Keller. I've gotten to work with Grant [Achatz] and a lot of these great Chicago guys. But Christopher Gross has got so many stories, and he's done so many things. I don't know how many times I've gotten to sit at the back of Petite [Maison] with James [Porter] and glass of scotch and just listen to these stories and listen to the food history. I could be thinking about a recipe -- a souflee or something I'd want to do -- and it's be like, he'll have a story to match it, a recipe, and I just eat it up. The guy is awesome and he's been doing it for so long. He's such a legend in his own right, you know? I just adore him.
What are you excited to work with for the spring menu?
Fruit. There's so many cool fruits. The greens are fantastic as well. Duncan Farms, I usually buy his greens, especially in the springtime. The greens are beautiful; they last so long; they're fresh. With a little bit of vinegar, a little bit of oil, with a great green? Completely changes a dish. The texture, the bitterness, the flavor. I'm super-excited about it.
Your most memorable a-ha moment:
Probably the million things I could fix with liquid nitrogen. That would probably be the a-ha moment. It was one of those things I was kind of in awe about and kind of scared to learn how to use. But everyday I see problems and I think, "You know, I wish I had a little bit of liquid nitrogen and I could fix that." If somethings not setting right or if it's too hot, too cold . . . I could slightly change it. But yeah, that was probably my a-ha moment.
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