Betony's Bryce Shuman: "I Don't Want Anything on the Menu I'm Not Thrilled About"
As a cook, you're very attached to your spoons. I like Gray Kunz's spoons--the large and smaller. I also appreciate the plastic tasting spoons. They have to be everywhere. If I see a cook stick their finger in something, it freaks me out. Use the tasting spoons.
What's the most underrated kitchen tool?
I think the cake tester is pretty amazing. You do so much with it: adjust things on a plate, check the internal temp of meats or the doneness of vegetables or whether the poached skin on the chicken is tender or not.
Favorite item in your pantry or walk-in?
I'm really into Aleppo pepper right now. It's this smoky, dried chili from the Middle East. It's just awesome. It's like Espelette but with more kick.
What's the most underrated ingredient?
Acid: lime juice or a simple white wine vinegar. I love brightness in food. All my sauces have a balance of acidity; they can't just be a reduction of a chicken jus. It has to be heightened with acid to give it that brightness. When I'm tasting food, I'm always thinking about music. I'll ask, "How does this chord work?" You need bass notes, mid notes, and trebles. Acidity is the high treble. It makes the chord sing.
Is there a food you won't eat?
Frozen microwaveable squash in the block form. I love squash, but I can't understand these overcooked vegetables that you find in freezer aisles that you heat up in the microwave and eat without salt.
Is there a special request you really dislike or won't accommodate?
No. If a guest wants a sauce on the side, no problem. Split a dish and I can split it, no problem. No gluten, amazing. I really want people to feel welcome. You can't walk in the door and demand baked mac and cheese, because I just don't have it. But if I can accommodate you, I'll do my best to go out of my way. I learned that at EMP. A guy came in and wanted a tasting menu of nothing but potatoes and onions and beef in lunch service, and we did it. This is about making people happy.
Is there an ingredient you won't work with?
Frozen microwaveable squash in block form.
When customers want to thank you for a superb meal, what do you wish they sent to the kitchen?
I just love a thank you when I come by a table. That's what I'm working for. That moment. Someone saying, "I had a great time. It was delicious." In that moment, it makes me feel amazing and happy that I've been able to do that. I don't need cases of beer, though the cooks love that. Now, other chefs even bring fried chicken or Italian meats from Chicago. But I just want a genuine thank you. That's awesome.
Hit the next page for a pair of restaurants Shuman thinks are underrated.