Up until last spring, Brian Enyart served as the chef de cuisine of Rick Bayless’ acclaimed Topolobampo restaurant in Chicago. While Enyart assumed that position in 2007 his tenure with Bayless’ family of restaurants spanned 14 years, nearly his entire adult life. Enyart’s previous posts include pastry sous chef at Topolobampo, sous chef at Frontera and managing chef of both restaurants. Often described as Bayless’ right-hand man, Enyart essentially ran the fine dining, Mexican cuisine kitchen. He also developed and tested countless recipes for Rick Bayless’ cookbooks and retail products. A graduate of The Cooking & Hospitality Institute of Chicago (which is now a part of Le Cordon Bleu), Enyart has been doing some consulting work and has plans to venture out on his own, but the specifics remain hush-hush for now.
FE&S: How has the trend toward sustainability influenced your menu development?
Brian Enyart: I hate trends. Trends make me think that I need to be reacting to things I have no control or relationship to. Sustainability has influenced my menu but only because it’s the smart way to do things.
FE&S: How immersed are you in molecular gastronomy these days? What do you feel are its lasting impacts on cooking and equipment?
Brian Enyart: I try to learn as much as I can. Making your food seem interesting and new is always something we look for. The lasting impact from this movement will be the desire to understand, on a deeper level, what happens during the cooking process and to continually asking ourselves why. Tools are tools. Making the best food we can is the goal.
FE&S: That said, though, do you still have a number one essential tool in your kitchens?
Brian Enyart: Yes: a cast iron pan.
FE&S: Any great travel that has helped shape your job?
Brian Enyart: Spain to el bulli. New York to WD-50 and Momofuku. Paris to Pierre Herme and Denmark to Noma, and of course, Mexico. I’m dying to go to Japan for the bars and love of craft, the Sichuan region of China for cooking in general, and India for spice-building and a focus on vegetarian cooking.
FE&S: In Chicago, where do you find inspiration?
Brian Enyart: I had the single most inspiring meal in my career at Alinea. And Chinatown, Argyle Street, and Maxwell street market are my favorites as far as ethnic neighborhoods.
FE&S: How do you keep track of your day-to-day ideas?
Brian Enyart: I carry a notepad and pen everywhere. I take notes throughout the day, on my phone, scrap pieces of paper, whatever. I even write notes on the shower door. It’s a good way to mentally keep working through all the aspects of the creative process...flavors, textures, seasons. Thinking about new dishes is a lot like cooking them: the more you do it the better you are at it.
FE&S: What do you wish culinary schools these days would teach students?
Brian Enyart: I think the transition from school to job for students is tough. Selling shoes at the mall for 15 hours a week and then getting an internship working 60 hours a week is a hard. I’d like culinary schools talk to students about what to expect and how to succeed in a kitchen.
Click here to read part one of the interview with Brian Enyart.
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