This is part one of my interview with Payton Curry, chef and co-owner of Brat Haus, scheduled to open July 2. Come back on Tuesday for part two.
Payton Curry Brat Haus 3622 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale 602-738-1274
With his tousled curls, blue eyes, and rosy complexion, Payton Curry looks a cherub -- without the wings or the extra padding. He has the healthy glow of a person who eats well and lives right, and he could pass for a college kid. But at 33, this former fallen angel -- who has faced down his share of demons -- is a 19-year veteran of the kitchen, a restaurant consultant with his own company (Curryosity) and the chef-partner (with local restaurant vet Dave Andrea) of Brat Haus, slated to open Monday, July 2.
A disciple of the farm-to-table movement, Curry is fanatical about sustainability, earning a reputation for cooking snout-to-tail, and making as many dishes as possible in-house. He admits to being "a wild child who needed structure," which he got in spades when he attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.
After interning at the Four Seasons in Singapore and finishing culinary school, he moved to Napa to work for Gray Kunz and Todd Humphries at Martini House. He was working for Michael Tusk at Quince in San Francisco when Peter Kasperski (Cowboy Ciao) stole him away to open the now-defunct Digestif in Scottsdale. Curry headed the kitchen at Caffe Boa (Tempe and Mesa; Mesa has since closed) before creating his own nine-seat pop-up restaurant at Welcome Diner. And in recent months, he's been behind the stove at FnB.
Of Brat Haus -- a casual beer hall featuring craft brews, artisan sausages, house-made sodas, hearth-made German pretzels and Belgian fries -- Curry says, "This isn't rocket science; it's peasant food. So come to the Brat Haus and be peasantly surprised."
What's your favorite food smell?: Lemon verbena. It grows very well here in AZ and it goes nicely with both sweet and savory dishes. It's wonderful infused into olive oils, simple syrups for lemonades, ice creams, and crème brulees. On the savory side, it makes for a wonderful marinade for poultry and fish.
What's your favorite cookbook?: The Elements of Taste by Gray Kunz. That book completely opened my eyes. It's got coffee stains on every single page. It makes you understand what salt, acid, and texture have to do with everything. Culinary schools should tell their incoming students, "Read this book before we start."
Name an ingredient you love to cook with and explain why: Honey. It replaces shitty-ass corn syrup. It's nature's Karo Syrup and it helps the bees fight Monsanto. Most over-rated ingredient: Kale. Kale salads are everywhere. But kale is coming from the Southern Hemisphere right now. It's out of season here. So people think, "Oh, I'm eating kale; I'm healthy." But their kale has no nutritional value because it's been shipped so far.
Most under-rated ingredient: Acid. Cooks always want to add more salt, salt, salt. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice or real vinegar makes a world of difference.
Trend you wish would go away: The bastardization of phrases like "all-natural" and "naturally grown." It's all bullshit. It's a marketing tactic used to convince the public that products are not full of hormones, pesticides, and herbicides. What chaps my ass is when these big companies on TV say "farm-fresh carrots." What does that mean?
What the average person doesn't understand about chefs is: That the proper term for most of us should be "executive schlep." This career choice is not at all about the glitz and glamour portrayed on the food channels. We're not as big as the Beatles and don't ever intend to be. Our local farmers and ranchers are our rock 'n' roll gods and green goddesses.
Enjoy this Chef Salad? Check out Nikki's previous interviews with: Payton Curry of Brat Haus Mark Tarbell of Tarbell's Josh Hebert of Posh Kevin Binkley of Binkley's Restaurant Lori Hashimoto of Hana Japanese Eatery Larry White, Jr. Lo-Lo's Fried Chicken & Waffles