This is part two of my interview with Payton Curry, chef and co-owner of the soon-to-open Brat Haus in Scottsdale. Read part one of the interview with Payton Curry here.
Favorite thing to eat growing up: Grandma's lefse, freshly churned butter and sugar in the raw. Lefse is a Norwegian flatbread that is made from potato. It will change your life if you let it.
Favorite thing to eat now: My wife's pie. I could seriously stuff my entire face into that pie when it's warm and oozing, fresh out of the oven. It's quite simple -- the dates and the money honey are coming from McClendon's Select, the flour is from Hayden Flour Mill, and the eggs, which she buys at the Bodega in Old Town, come from Two Wash Ranch.
How do you feel about customers adding seasoning to your dishes: I don't care if people want to put salt and pepper on their food. Some chefs say, "My food is perfectly seasoned." And I always think, "Really? What if you have a customer who smokes a pack a day?"
Name a culinary mentor at the national level and explain what you learned from that person: Chef Michael Tusk at Quince in San Francisco. I worked there for four months for free to get my foot in the door. I cleaned shrimp, did all the bitch work, until they said, "Congratulations! You're on the payroll." I learned butchering, refined all my techniques and procedures. He changed the menu every day. We didn't have sous chefs. We had Chef and us -- five of us. I learned so much faster. It cut down on a lot of the bullshit.
A local mentor would be: Charleen Badman at FnB. She taught me organization and follow-through. She made me comfortable working as much as I do in this business. She doesn't judge you. Her philosophy is "Do what you do 100 percent of the way and be comfortable behind your apron." She also reminded me to have fun.
Who's your favorite national chef and why: Tom Douglas in Seattle (Dahlia Lounge, Etta's, Lola, Seatown, Serious Pie, Palace Kitchen). About 80 percent of his employees have full healthcare. What's your pet peeve in the kitchen: Towels over the shoulder and bitching. Both are a byproduct of laziness. I cannot stand people complaining about their current work environment, saying, "If this were my restaurant . . . " I always want to say, "If this were your restaurant, you would have gotten off that bar stool and taken the time to make it happen."
Describe Phoenix as a restaurant town: People say we're 10 or 12 years behind San Francisco and New York. But we still have burrata here. We have as much of the current stuff as we're allowed. Some of the restrictions that keep us from advancing come from the Maricopa County Health Department. We can't do the simple techniques of pickling and preservation that people have been doing for thousands of years. Here in Phoenix, you have to have a variance to make sauerkraut, a variance to make pickles, and a variance to make cured meat (bacon and pancetta, for example). In San Francisco, restaurants on every street corner do this. The more the health department allows our practices to grow, the better it's going to be.
What was your vision/thought process when you and Dave Andrea brainstormed Brat Haus: Sitting in a beer garden in Munich two years ago, watching people laughing and joking, drinking beer together, and having a great time because the price point allowed that. This is not a chef-driven restaurant. This is a concept-driven restaurant. This is bratwurst, Belgian fries, German pretzels, and beer. If you want a chicken club, you'll have to go somewhere else.
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
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