Gather in the Walker has become a destination for its fine-dining lunches and monthly happy hour specials. Once a month the restaurant brings in local notable chefs of other restaurants to share a couple of bites of free and fantastic foods. The real star of Gather is happy to let the guys with the big names take the fame, as he works diligently with his team turning out plate after plate of gorgeous, delicious food.
Today we're shining that spotlight on Gather's chef Josh Brown. In the first part of our Chef Chat we talk about growing up in the wild West, cooking with bacon grease, and what it takes to be popular in high school.
Where did you grow up?
Montana, in the city. But I spent about 50 percent of my life out on my family's farm. It was a wheat farm, but we had animals.
What drew you into the kitchen?
We always made bread for the week. All us kids would be outside playing. Mom had the loudest whistle. We'd hear that and come running from the barn--there was a rope swing out there--when it was time to punch down the bread.
What smells remind you of home?
That smell, whenever I made bread. It just takes me right back to Montana and cooking with Grandma, rolling it out over the counter and looking out at the pasture.
When did you become interested in cooking?
Growing up, I did a lot of 4H. Mom was a leader, and she helped the cooking cause.As far back as I can remember, I've always been interested in cooking.
Do you remember the first meal you cooked?
I made dinner for my girlfriend and friends for prom. I made crepes with chicken and vegetables. I thought it was crazy fancy. A three-course meal on the four-season porch; I set up a whole scene.
Was this senior prom?
Junior year. I was 17 years old and thought this is great!
What about the first thing you remember learning how to cook?
Cinnamon rolls with Grandma.
It was all the old-fashioned cooking--we saved the bacon fat and used that for cooking. You know, like we'd rub down a chicken with that instead of butter.
Wow, do you still do that?
I can't. I have to think differently. A little less fat--less cholesterol.
When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
I think it was around 11th or 12th grade. I took a job at a bakery at Anoka Hennepin Technical College. I'd come into class smelling like doughnuts. Sometimes I'd bring in treats for my friends. Everyone is always so happy to see you when you show up with doughnuts.
I thought I wanted to be a pastry chef after my experience in the bakery, maybe a cake decorator. I took second place in a competition thingy at school. It wasn't until I really got into the mechanics of pastry and how meticulous it is that I moved into the savory side and started developing a fondness for that kind of cooking.
What was your first job out of school?
It was with the D'Amicos. I was 19 years old, while I was still in pastry school.