Josh Bracher of Second Story Liquor Bar: "There's a Reason for Everything on the Plate"
Chef Josh Bracher
Josh Bracher Executive Chef Second Story Liquor Bar www.secondstoryliquorbar.com
It's been about two months since Second Story Liquor Bar opened in Old Town Scottsdale above The Gelato Spot. The cozy restaurant and bar brings a dose of old school style to the area's nightlife scene. Everything from the décor to the servers' uniforms oozes Mad Men-esque style and at the bar you'll find one of the most old fashioned bartenders, John Christie.
At the helm of the kitchen is chef Josh Bracher, a 27-year-old up-and-comer in the Valley dining scene.
Bracher grew up locally and has been working in the restaurant business since the ripe old age of 13. He started bussing tables at mom and pop places in his neighborhood and says he knew at a young age that he loved the food and beverage industry.
He says he "fell in love with the art of dining" while working at the Water's Edge restaurant, a fine-dining spot in Fountain Hills that's since closed. By 17, he'd graduated from high school -- a year early -- and enrolled in culinary school.
The young chef says he's benefited from having a front-row seat to the city's burgeoning restaurant scene.
"I got to see a lot of it," Bracher says. "I was 18 years old going to Binkley's and getting tastings."
Since graduating, he's spent time working at Capitol Grille and Cask 63, a wine bar and upscale restaurant at The Shops at Gainey Village that closed last year.
Bracher then went on to work under chef Josh Hebert at Posh before landing the job at Second Story.
"This is my first baby, for sure," the chef says of Second Story.
Josh in the kitchen at Second Story Liquor Bar.
Just last week, the restaurant debuted its latest menu, the first menu change since the restaurant opened. The plan is to change both the dinner, drink, and happy hour menus on a monthly basis. With the "Episode Two" menu Bracher continues to combine classic dishes like scallops carbonara with international influences like uni butter.
"We're bringing you something better than what your mother would have given you," Bracher says. "But it's still familiar."
The driving idea behind the Second Story Liquor Bar is storytelling, so when it comes to the menu, Bracher aims to draw out a diner's own food memories -- and then build upon them.
"We're trying to capture our guests and then carry them," Bracher says.
The result is food that's a far cry from the let-the-ingredients-speak-for-themselves type of food that's popular at many restaurants right now. But Bracher says he'd rather layer flavors and cook food that showcases some ingredients more than others.
"People try to give me a hard time about it," Bracher says. "But there's a reason for everything on the plate."
If nothing else, it's a refreshing change.
Second Story's bar
Five years ago I was: Working at the restaurant that really sparked my interest in food and made me fall in love the restaurant business. It was Water's Edge and I was only 22 but working as the sous chef. There I saw my first truffle. It was in a briefcase cuffed to a man's arm -- black and white truffles the size of golf balls.
One dish that best describes your style of cooking: On our menu now, we have our scallop dish that is a play on the carbonara, which most people are familiar with (scallops and carbonara) and now that their lured in I hit 'em with uni butter, caviar, fresh English peas, smoked confit pork belly, chanterelle mushrooms, charred cherry tomatoes, ygg yolk, and a duo of gnocchi, one of them being made up with black pepper and parmigiano reggiano and the other made with Peruvian potatoes.
Your earliest food memory: Two that come to mind would be my dad's honey mustard chicken and my mom's stuffed cabbages. They were my favorites.
One thing you want people to know about you: I absolutely love what I do and like to have fun and you can taste it.
Your personal mantra or catchphrase: Let food be thy medicine.
What are some of your biggest sources of inspiration: Every week my kitchen and I get together on our day off and go out on a "chef day." We eat a lot all day, we drink, and we talk food, stop by a farm. It's inspirational for us.
Your favorite cook book: Culinary Artistry, it's like the older version of The Flavor Bible. They both help to pair food and, for me, I feel that it was great to just constantly go through it and wrap my head around what went with what so now it comes pretty easily.
The one ingredient you think should be used more: Sweet breads, once you try them you're sold.
Niman Ranch Bone-In Lambchops
The best thing you've eaten in the last year: Besides my food, I loved Pig and Pickle's pork belly dish with pea hummus, baby turnips, fennel salad, lemon preserve, and with pea tendrils. It was just so on point and done perfectly. But the best dessert was bone marrow lemongrass ice cream with a sesame miso tuille from Posh.
My current obsession is: Vegetables, something I overlooked as a kid but now love more than ever.
One local chef you admire and why: I admire what Kevin Binkley does at Binkley's. Every time I've been, I have had the opportunity to try something new, and I am always impressed, all senses are hit everything is on point.
One national/international restaurant you want to get to this year: I want to see the makeover at the French Laundry and experience greatness. Here's a quote from Thomas Keller (everybody's culinary father), "When you acknowledge, as you must, that there is no such thing as perfect food, only the idea of it, the real purpose of striving toward perfection becomes clear: To make people happy." That's what cooking is all about.
Your drink of choice and where you like to get it: Rye the Way by Micah Olson of Crudo.
Your biggest mentor in the kitchen and the best lesson he/she taught you: Glenn Belfeild at Water's Edge. He taught me a lot but what has to be learned first and impressed on to you is the respect and passion for food and the art of dining. The little things like "real food is from the ground and not a can" and "a happy animal is a delicious one" -- and to be devastated when a guest leaves unhappy. He summed that one up for me this one time and it hit hard. He says, "Think about your guests, some of them work hard like we do pushing sixty hours a week and get one day off and they come here and want an epic meal from us. Now imagine if that were you. So, don't mess it up."
Your culinary guilty pleasure: Pasta.
One movie everyone should see and why: Food Matters, to see some truth about food and health.
When you're not in the kitchen you're usually: At home with my fiancée working in our garden.
Check out our past Chef and Tell interviews with: Chris McKinley -- The Local Chris Mayo -- Central Bistro James Fox -- Bootleggers Jay and Christine Wisniewski -- Caffe Boa Joe Absolor - Clever Koi Jason Grossmiller - Arizona Distilling Company Chris Collins - Grassroots Kitchen and Tap Perry Rea - Queen Creek Olive Mill Adam Brown - Noca Steve Kraus - Press Coffee Roastery Jason Raducha and Claudio Urciuoli - Noble Bread Sasha Raj - 24 Carrots Nick LaRosa - Nook Joey Maggiore - Cuttlefish Country Velador - Super Chunk Sweets and Treats James Porter - Petite Maison Cullen Campbell - Crudo Mel Mecinas - Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North Meagan Micozzi - Scarletta Bakes Tyson Holzheimer and Joe Strelnik - Snooze, an A.M. Eatery Paul McCabe - T. Cook's at the Royal Palms Eugenia Theodosopoulos - Essence Bakery Cafe Eddie Hantas - Hummus Xpress Jay Bogsinke - St. Francis Dustin Christofolo - Quiessence Blaise and DJ Aki - The Sushi Room Sacha Levine - Rancho Pinot and FnB Andrew Nienke - Cafe Monarch Kevin Lentz - French Grocery Aurore de Beauduy - Vogue Bistro Justin Olsen - Bink's Midtown Marco, Jinette, and Edmundo Meraz - Republica Empanada Brian Peterson - Cork Brian Webb - Hey Joe! Filipino Street Food Lester Gonzalez - Cowboy Ciao Renetto-Mario Etsitty - Tertio German Sega - Roka Akor Marco Bianco - Pizzeria Bianco Brad and Kat Moore - Short Leash Hot Dogs and Sit...Stay
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