Chef Kitchen Secrets: Three of Teton County’s top chefs spill on life behind the restaurant curtain

By on December 20, 2017

Local KHOL radio personality and previous traveling restaurant consultant Jason Mitchell is no stranger to pleasing picky eaters. Mitchell graduated from the Culinary Institute of America with two degrees in Culinary Arts and Business Management. His culinary passport includes Manhattan, San Francisco and Minneapolis, where he was a private chef for the governor.

PJH caught with Mitchell on his cheffing history and kitchen secrets. His recipes lie in what he calls “simple ingredients with no foam and no drizzle.”

PJH: What is your kitchen at The Pinsetter inside the Hole Bowl like?

Mitchell: It’s huge and airy with the finest equipment. The energy in a kitchen is extremely important to the resolution of the food, the cooks on the line and the overall service of a venue. Happy cooks mean happy food, and this transfers over to a successful restaurant. It’s a serious working kitchen and it shows in our cuisine.

PJH: What is your favorite dish at the Pinsetter?

Mitchell: The Main Street Chicken Dinner. Winner winner, chicken dinner! We make our mashed potatoes the way Grandma does. Idaho potato, cream, whole butter and salt. Once, an Idaho potato farmer came in to dine, and proclaimed that this was the way to cook mashed potato, which was gratifying. The chicken is an air cooled natural product and cage free.

Our chickpea sandwich, served with smoked lime yogurt, arugula and pickled fennel is my take on falafel. We pick, clean, blanch and shock our organic kale. I use the finest local ingredients I can get my hands on. I grind my pepper. I use fresh herbs, butter and salt. Our desserts are all in homage to grandmothers everywhere. We mix and bake cookies and brownies, and our chocolate sauce does not come from a squeeze bottle. I cook simply, and for my soul, not for accolades, adulation or the almighty dollar.

PJH: How do you like to feed your picky eaters?

Mitchell: Going back to the roots of the family is always the wisest choice. If I’m cooking for a family from the Pacific Rim, my menu will include ginger, garlic and scallions. If the clients are native New Yorkers, subtle research is the best way to meet their expectations. Florida would of course include seafood. But truly, more than anything else, research and intelligent cooking are the keys to pleasing picky eaters. And never try to cook something their mothers made for them!

 

PJH asked Head Chef Eli Hagberg and cook John Fettig for some kitchen secrets behind Victor’s beloved Knotty Pine Supper Club. Here’s what we found out.

PJH: What do you like about working at the Knotty Pine?

Hagberg: We do home cooking, barbecue and fine dining, and we have options for everyone’s taste with constantly rotating specials.

Fettig: I love the burnt ends, which the staff likes to call ‘meat candy,’ morsels that are satisfyingly crunchy, yet tender at the same time. A plethora of complimentary flavors explodes on your tongue when you bite into one. I also dig the onion rings, which are delightfully crunchy, and dressed with herbs and spices in the prep process. We make these fresh. They don’t come from a bag bought frozen from the purveyor.

PJH: How do you feed your pickiest of eaters?

Fettig: Going back to the roots of the family is always the wisest choice. If I’m cooking for a family from the Pacific Rim, my menu will include ginger, garlic and scallions. If the clients are native New Yorkers, subtle research is the best way to meet their expectations. Florida, would of course include seafood. But truly, more than anything else, research and intelligent cooking are the keys to pleasing picky eaters. And never try to cook something their mothers made for them!

PJH: When you aren’t at work, do you cook at home or go out?

Fettig: I love sampling the local fare when I’m not in the commercial kitchen. My favorites are Calico, Teton Thai and the Bistro.

PJH: Tell us about a memorable kitchen disaster.

Hagberg: Last spring, a five gallon bag of ketchup that was stored in a box on a tall shelf fell to the floor, splattering everywhere, the walls, the equipment, and most everything on nearby shelves. It was a huge mess. Unforgettable!

 

Well-known chef Kevin Humphreys spins up incredible, award winning fare at the Spur inside Teton Mountain Lodge. After winning the Gold Medal for Jackson Hole’s Best Chef Poll for the ninth year in a row, PJH asked him what his secrets to success are.

PJH: How do you feed your pickiest of eaters?

Humphreys: Picky eaters know exactly what they want and usually are very specific with their requests. We offer a vegan/gluten-free/vegetarian dish at dinner – Kale Polenta Cakes, with curried beluga lentils and butternut squash, roasted cauliflower, and cilantro cashew chutney.

PJH: Please describe your approach to menus that accommodate your pickiest of eaters.

Humphreys: We have engineered our menu so that almost every item can be prepared gluten-free with the ingredients that we use. We also offer gluten-free bread at all meal periods, and dedicate one fryer as gluten-free. When designing menus for vegan and glutenfree eaters, I always try to offer a wide variety of options. We have ‘picky eaters’ in almost nightly, and with a front of house staff well trained in menu preparations, they can easily navigate the guest through their options so we can exceed their expectations.

PJH: Tell us about some of your favorite menu items.

Humphreys: Some of my new favorites are the elk portabella sausage, lobster mac and cheese, beef cheek schnitzel, the elk ribeye and the pork shank.

PJH: What do you think draws guests to the Spur, especially for the aprés scene?

Humphreys: All the appetizers are easily shared and sourced with seasonally driven items.

 


About Jessica L. Flammang

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