The Garden Chef Series at 2 p.m. most Sundays in the Heartland Harvest Garden is in full swing. Today on the blog we meet Brian Bromwell of Anton’s Taproom, who will be here this Sunday, June 23, to share a recipe and delight your taste buds!
Q. Tell us about your background and what inspired you to become a chef.
A. I moved to Europe when I finished college to do graduate work and teach English. I was there for five years and I really started to appreciate how different food could taste on a daily level, especially when I travelled. I always came back with a new cookbook from whatever country I’d been in. When I moved back to the States (New York City, specifically) and was looking for a new direction, cooking was a very real and exciting option. I jumped right in.
Q. What advice do you have for aspiring chefs?
A. Keep your head down, keep working, hone your craft. Find good mentors and stick with them. So many young chefs are so ambitious to strike out on their own that I think they short-change themselves by not allowing themselves the time and space to really round out as professionals and build a strong foundation of not only technical knowledge, but also business sense and broader operational concerns.
Q. Tell us about your menu and the food philosophy at Anton’s Taproom.
A. At Anton’s, our goal is simply to serve great, natural food. We get tons of organic local produce and whole animals. We keep the preparations simple to let all the natural goodness shine.
We strive to use as much “clean” product as possible. The scary things happening in the agro-industrial world are detrimental to our health and our environment. Be it food, cleaning agents, fryer shortening or paper/plastic products, Anton’s strives to keep it all safe and healthy. If we can do this AND provide a great dining experience, we’ve succeeded. And I think we have.
From a purely culinary standpoint, I love the vibrant flavors of non-genetically modified, organically farmed products, the opportunity to cook “nose-to-tail” (using as much of the animal as possible), and the chance to present our guests with “real,” honest food.
Q. What is happening in the basement? Can customers see the aquaponics operation?
A. There’s wonderful stuff happening in the basement. Our herb garden is out of control with wonderfully flavored produce. We currently have two types of basil, oregano, lemon balm, sage, and chives; and I just harvested the most intense, peppery arugula I’ve ever tasted. The owner, Anton, is very hands-on with the aquaponic operation and the staff is always happy to show people what we’re doing. I love having all of this goodness at my disposal.
Q. When it comes to working with local ingredients, what is your favorite season and why?
A. I love every season and what each has to offer. It’s not just produce, but all growing aspects, like the traditional autumn harvest of pork. We’ll have amazing mangalitsa pigs this fall, which I’m very excited about. And I like winter, too. All the tasty preserved and pickled things from summer’s bounty take on a whole new life.
Q. Do you have a garden at home?
A. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to tend to my own garden, but I’ve grown herbs and some chili peppers with moderate success and find it very rewarding.
Q. What will you prepare during your demo at Powell Gardens?
A. I did a demo last October, which is the end of the growing season, so my options were somewhat limited. The list of available produce in June is a little overwhelming and I’m having trouble deciding what to cook! Im a bit like a kid in a candy shop. Needless to say, I’m thrilled at the options and it will be delicious, I promise!
To find out what Brian chooses to prepare, join us at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 23, in the Missouri Barn! The demo is included with your regular Garden admission.