F&W Star Chef
Restaurant: Foreign & Domestic (Austin)
Experience: Tabla, Per Se, Picholine, Country, Restaurant Ducasse at the Essex House (New York City)
Education: Culinary Institute of America (Hyde Park, NY)
What dishes are you best known for?
We’re known for odd cuts; the two most popular are our crispy beef tongue and our raw beef heart.
The crispy beef tongue has been on the menu since day one. We took it off for three weeks and had enough complaints that I decided it would stay on forever. We poach the tongue until tender, about six to eight hours. Then we cool it down in the poaching liquid, portion it out, dredge it in some smoked paprika and Wondra Flour, then fry it. It goes with a horseradish yogurt with sweet Indian spices and kokum, dried Indian black plums.
We also always do a raw heart preparation, whether with beef or venison or antelope. I love the flavor of raw heart: It’s nice and sweet, yet neutral. It lends itself to many variations. Right now we do a play on tartare: A toad-in-the-hole with brioche and a confited egg yolk that we top with a quenelle of chopped beef heart. Then we dress the plate with a puree of squid ink and crushed fresh herbs, and compressed raw green mango and raw papaya.
What drew you to offal?
My mom Sandra’s family has Appalachian roots, and growing up we always had a jar of pickled pig’s feet on the counter. She’d serve me and my two sisters scrambled eggs and brains and we had no idea—we thought it was just eggs. We had beef tongue sandwiches until the fourth grade when someone alerted someone that it wasn’t bologna. Then we started to complain, “Oh gross, I’m not eating that!” But now I love that stuff.
You’ve said that you learned a lot at Restaurant Ducasse at the Essex House. How do you adapt Ducasse-level standards to your more reasonable budget at Foreign & Domestic?
There are some things I can’t replicate—like we did a play on beef Rossini, with a sauce made of $25 a pound short ribs, $40 a bottle red wine, foie gras, heirloom vegetables for the mirepoix and a 1978 Madeira. That was all just for the sauce. But I can attempt something close, with an awesome beef shin and a good red wine, and a splash of a favorite Madeira, and marrow instead of foie gras.
What are your favorite cooking memories from growing up?
We had a huge garden where I grew up in Cincinnati. We’d have lettuce and two different kinds of kale and four different kinds of chard, and beets and cabbage and rhubarb. We even had a grape arbor with Concord grapes, which my moms would use in homemade wine and jam.
What is the best dish for a neophyte cook to try?
Pickles. You can mess them up really badly and they still taste great.
Is there a culinary skill or a type of dish that you wish you were better at?
Baking bread. I’ve been following Josey Baker on Instagram and am so inspired by his story. Baking is such a noble art—cooking is ordinary by comparison.
What are your favorite best-bang-for-the-buck-ingredients?
Foraged foods. On a run the other day I saw all of these houses with loquat trees in their backyards. I knocked on four or five doors and asked if they’d mind if we picked them. I offered to pay, but I didn’t have to pay much. And now we have 80 pounds of loquats—40 pounds that we pickled and 40 pounds waiting to turn into jam.
What is the best souvenir you’ve brought back from a trip?
A small handmade copper saucepot that I got at E. Dehillerin in Paris. When I asked what it was, at first they acted like they always do and pretended they didn’t speak any English. So I reminded them I’d been in before. They explained that some old guy from outside the city brings them a couple of his own handmade pots every once in a while.