Chef Josh Brown has been working in the kitchens of the D'Amico company for almost all of his culinary career. In the kitchen at Gather in the Walker, he's stepping out from behind the burners for the first time and garnering critical acclaim as he does so. Yesterday we chatted with him about growing up in Montana and his early career (catch up here). Today we chat about cooking with kids, working out of the weeds, and the Wolfgang in the kitchen.
What was your first job with D'Amico?
While I was still in school I applied for pastry and I worked around. I was told that I was responsible for going to school and getting my education there, but I was learning so much that we hadn't even started studying in school yet.
It was really hard, and I had no experience, no idea what I was doing. Eventually, I worked my way up, got through school, went through my school of hard knocks.
What do you love most about working for D'Amico?
The talent and passion that comes out of that company is just incredible. The way they run the company, this is their passion. We share that passion and have high standards to keep. Those expectations are very high. And it's a family. I've been here for 14 years. There's no other kitchen I know that has this kind of record for tenure. There are people who have been working for catering for 15, 20 years. Because of that sense of family and their reputation, people really want to work here. They look to us as the place to go.
What was it like stepping in after 20.21 and Wolfgang Puck?
It helps that we have the catering business. With that said, there was a lot of nervousness to do better. I have high expectations for myself; I can't fail. Also, our guest services is the best it can be. The team we have in here is phenomenal. I couldn't do what I do alone. It really starts with the staff.
Do you think it helps to get the recognition after you've already made your bones?
I've seen so many things and been able to handle so many different situations. If you don't end up in the weeds, you'll never know how to get yourself out again. It helps to have the experience of failures. It also helps to have already had a staff. I've worked with a lot of people. I think it's easier than if we were just a couple of kids out of school.
What advice would you give those kids just getting out of school?
If you stop learning you need to stop what you're doing and do something else. I learn something new every day.
If you weren't a chef, is there any other job you'd like to attempt?
I think I'd like to be a teacher. I love my job, though, and I do get to teach. It's my passion, but it is hard. There are a lot of long days.
So you're not just punching out after lunch every day?
Oh no. We've got a large amount of catering. It's never a 9 to 5 Monday through Friday sort of job. There's a lot of corporate stuff with the Walker, their donors, partners.My line guys are lucky. They work the lunch and get out pretty early.
I know you've got two boys. How do you as a parent approach food at home?
I try to cook a lot of different foods. They go back and forth on what they will eat. I just say, "Try it once, just once," and if they don't like it, we don't push it. They mostly eat normal kid stuff.
We also let them prepare dishes. They've both got their own knives. It let's them really enjoy it. They can say, "I cooked that and it's good." It's so great for them. They learn so much. It's following directions, responsibility, comprehension of the tools. Cooking with your kids is the best. You get to play with your food!
My nine-year-old makes eggs already, and he's really good at flipping them and everything. The confidence it builds. Also, it's time spent with your kids when you get to be totally focused on them.
Sounds pretty ideal.
You know? I love this life, absolutely love it. This is the only way it can be. I think a lot of people get bogged down, you know? We're underwater on your mortgage--well, we're all underwater. It's hard on everyone, but there are just too many hard things in life. We could sit around and dwell, but then you miss it. I say, live this life for what it is, friends and family--and I love it.
Visit Chef Brown tomorrow night for the First Thursday, when the restaurant will be open for dinner. Get free appetizers prepared by chef Russell Klein of Meritage, chef Steven Brown of Tilia, and chef Justin Frederick of D'Amico Kitchen. Or order off the dinner menu from chef Brown and his elegant, delicious dishes.