Meet the Chefs: Four Local Chefs Dish On Why They Cook, What’s On The Menu For Restaurant Week, And More
In Ashland, February means Restaurant Week and a chance for chefs to flex their creativity. Last year, 19 restaurants participated. This year, the Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the event, expects even more restaurants. With this in mind, we thought it was the perfect time to learn more about some of our local chefs. Read on to learn about four Ashland chefs, why they cook, what inspires them, and more. Ashland Restaurant Week runs February 6-12 this year.
For more information on Restaurant Week and full menus, visit at AshlandChamber.com/Food2017.
p.s. A little secret we found out while working on this article? The owners of Eleven are working on a new restaurant, Ex Nihilo, which should open mid-to-late February.
Name: Billy Buscher
Restaurant: Alchemy Restaurant & Bar
Title: Executive Chef
Rogue Valley Messenger: Could you give us a short background? How long have you been with Alchemy, etc.?
Billy Buscher: I have been at Alchemy for seven years going on eight. I started washing dishes at the Jacksonville Inn, after three months I expressed a strong interest to learn cooking. I was lucky to work under two amazing chefs in the beginning of my career, and attribute those first few years to way I approach my cuisine.
RVM: What’s the one ingredient or kitchen device you can’t live without?
BB: The Cryovac machine. We do a lot with this machine, everything from compressing fresh fruits or vegetables, to enhancing their flavor or texture.
RVM: Where do you draw inspiration from when you’re designing new menu items?
BB: All over! I get inspired by my cooks, my friends, local chefs in the industry, and an ever-growing library of professionally leaning cookbooks. New and reemerging, fresh in-season ingredients are something I think about often. How can I best represent an ingredient in a way that showcases everything already beautiful about it?
RVM: How big is your kitchen staff?
BB: In the height of summer between breakfast and dinner service we have between 12 and 14 back of the house staff.
RVM: Why cooking? Did you ever consider doing anything else?
BB: My first day in the kitchen was shocking. I had never experienced anything like it — controlled chaos, adrenaline- and caffeine-fueled symphony of many people from many different backgrounds working together with a single goal. It is a craft I don’t believe can ever be truly mastered. There is always more to learn, craft and refine.
RVM: If you could cook anyone a meal, who would it be and what would you serve them?
BB: I would love to cook for my great grandmother, an Italian immigrant. She had a green thumb and my earliest food memories involved helping her pull up potatoes from the garden. Her kitchen was where everyone would visit, usually around the table as something delicious was slowly simmering in the oven or on the stovetop. Since this is hypothetical, I would cook a meal with my grandmother and we would cook whatever she wanted.
RVM: What were you doing when you were 25?
BB: I had just finished my first year running the Winchester Inn kitchen.
RVM: What’s the last thing you ate before opening this email?
BB: About 20 different things! I’m at the end of a busy dinner service and we are constantly tasting and adjusting.
Name: Kevin Broadie
Title: Chef and Owner
RVM: How many years have you been cooking?
KB: For as long as I can remember. I was blessed to have wonderful mentors in my grandmother and mother. My grandmother’s cookbook is hanging in the foyer of Eleven.
RVM: Out of all the professions, why did you pick cooking?
KB: Joy, pure and simple. What could be better than creating a new, balanced, beautiful dish? I tried other things, and am glad I did, but nothing brought the same satisfaction. I very much consider my addiction to this profession a disease, after all, it’s demanding, physical, and not terribly profitable. But, as long as you all let me, I would do nothing else.
RVM: If you could cook anywhere in the world for one night, where would it be?
San Juan Islands, sunset, August, on the beach, open fire pits, surrounded by my team creating singular magic out of the bounty that is the Northwest in high summer and interpreting that bounty through the prism of Basque technique and passion.
RVM: Are you ever surprised by what’s popular on the menu?
KB: I am extremely happy with the response to our small veg plates. Too often vegetables, and believe me I am a pronounced carnivore, are ill done, sidelined, or overlooked. It has been warmly gratifying to see our guests embrace and highlight those dishes in their comments and reviews. With the strong farm presence in the valley we have access to great produce and it is fun to see it appreciated.
RVM: What influences your cooking?
KB: My wife Andi, my team, travel, innovative chefs putting their own twist on dishes, great product that just stares you in the eye and challenges you to enhance its perfection.
RVM: Are you experimenting with any techniques or flavors right now?
KB: Portuguese, tropical fruits utilizing the traditions of Central America and the Caribbean. Always chasing the perfect Ceviche.
RVM: Can you give us a preview of what you will be on your restaurant week menu?
KB: As will probably come as no surprise Portuguese profiles, we have a new Pastry Cook (Vanessa Vogel) who is very talented and a Sous Chef (Sophia Younis) who is wonderful at presentation. We are slaving away to perfect a three-course offering to highlight what we are hoping to continue to bring to the Valley.
Name: Serena Fultz
Restaurant: Liquid Assets
Title: Executive Chef
Rogue Valley Messenger: Can you tell us a little about your background?
SF: I trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale, Arizona. I worked for the largest country club in Arizona (3000+ members), running their two clubhouses and banquet department. After moving back to the Pacific Northwest, I worked as an Executive Chef for The River’s Edge in Grants Pass and as Executive Pastry and Banquet Chef for Schoolhaus Brewhaus in Jacksonville, among others.
RVM: What spring or summer ingredients are you looking forward to?
SF: Liquid Assets has a garden in Sams Valley, which I cultivate each season. We use it to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, potatoes, and anything else we would like to use for the restaurant through the summer. Stone fruit is what really signifies summer to me. There’s nothing like the scent of ripe peaches, nectarines and apricots.
RVM: What food can you not live without?
SF: Is wine a food? Haha. I cannot live without cheese. There are so many types of cheese and so many applications. My favorite guilty pleasure is cottage cheese and Lay’s Classic potato chips. Don’t knock it until you try it!
RVM: As you plan your restaurant week menu this year, what are you thinking about and what are you most excited about?
SF: It is very important to us to provide the local clientele with something new and exciting, at an affordable price point. Asian is my specialty, so I am very excited to be offering this year an Asian inspired Japanese Hamachi entree.
RVM: What did you eat growing up?
SF: My family is Italian, and very intent on tradition. Every Sunday, we always had homemade spaghetti and meatballs. My father used to make Italian bread from scratch. I remember being very small and watching his tough, weathered hands kneading the dough with such finesse.
RVM: Why did you choose to cook?
SF: Food chose this career for me. I eat, sleep, and breathe this industry. I am an adrenaline junky when it comes to the rush of a full ticket rail on a summer Friday night. The professional kitchen is noise and chaos, violence and finesse, love and loathing, and a dichotomy of a million of other adjectives only chefs can understand. When we get it right, there’s no greater satisfaction.
Name: Neil Clooney
Restaurant: Smithfields Restaurant & Bar; Smithfields Pubs & Pies
Title: Chef and Owner
Rogue Valley Messenger: What two foods could you not live without?
NC: I don’t think I can narrow it down to two foods, but my two food groups would be Meat and Vegetables.
RVM: Why do you cook? Did you ever think about being something other than a chef?
NC: I enjoy the dynamics of running restaurants and the kitchen is the engine room of every good restaurant. I constantly think about being something other than a chef.
RVM: You’re from England, is there anything food-wise you miss?
NC: Decent Indian food and doner kebabs after a night out with the lads.
RVM: Is there a trend you wish would catch on or one you really, really want to go away?
NC: I want people to embrace the goodness of pies. It’s a complete meal wrapped in delicious pastry. I’d like Yelp to go away.
RVM: What’s on the radio/speakers in your kitchen?
NC: Depends on the cook, they’re a pretty eclectic crowd. If it’s me, anything from English rock n’ roll to drum n’ bass.
RVM: As you plan for restaurant week, what are you looking to for inspiration?
NC: Being able to offer our customers and exciting menu that’s different from our regular menu and being affordable.
RVM: Can you give us a preview of one of your dishes for restaurant week — what should people look forward to?
NC: At the pub we are offering a “Pi” discount of $3.14 to all pies in the evening.
The restaurant is offering a three-course menu, with two choices per course for $33.
One of the entrees is a braised beef shin with herb roasted sunchokes and a preserved lemon gremolata.
RVM: Do you have any hobbies, or do you pretty much live in the kitchen?
NC: Nope, I’m a big believer in creating a life for yourself outside of work. Obviously, the first few years were pretty consuming but now there’s time to enjoy hanging out with my wife and kids, construction projects around the house, snowboarding and golf