Cafe Society

Brandon Foster, exec chef of Vesta Dipping Grill, on Jimmy Buffett Fridays, the yuck of a yam cake and tie-dye

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Favorite local ingredient and where you get it: If I had to pick one, I'd choose tomatoes from either Verde Farms or Agriburbia. Tomatoes that are picked hours before they're delivered are the best. The duck eggs from Grower's Organic are near and dear to my heart, too. Try frying two eggs over easy and putting them on top of a slice of head cheese on grilled toast. Once you go for it, you'll never go back.

Most overrated ingredient: Anything within the realm of molecular gastronomy. I think it's messing with food too much.

Most underrated ingredient: Root vegetables, like turnips, parsnips and rutabaga. Root vegetables are some of my favorite things to work with, but they don't get any credit. Take my word for it: You haven't lived until you've had turnips poached in duck fat.

Favorite spice: These days, I really have a thing for smoked paprika. It's got some heat to it, which I like, but it has this really musty, earthy smoke flavor that I just can't get enough of.

One food you detest: Blue cheese. I've tried it, many times, and I still can't do it. It smells like feet.

One food you can't live without: Hot sauce. I eat it on everything.

Favorite music to cook by: Chuck Mangione, Michael McDonald and Jimmy Buffett. All three singers have specific ties to the Vesta kitchen, and it just wouldn't be the same without them. We have a habit of listening to Chuck and Michael repeatedly -- and I mean repeatedly, and Jimmy has his own special day: Jimmy Buffett Fridays are five straight hours of Buffett, pink drinks and Hawaiian shirts. It's glorious.

Rules of conduct in your kitchen: Take your job seriously, but don't take yourself too seriously. We're passionate about what we do, but the mood has got to be a balance of seriousness and fun. We have a very small kitchen, considering how much food we put out on a busy night, and keeping your cool is super-important. If one guy gets worked up, it throws the whole flow off. Since we're obnoxious kitchen guys, we crack jokes at everyone's expense, and for the most part, it keeps the mood light and fun. Thick skin and the ability to take relentless ridicule are two good qualities to have in our kitchen. I now refer back to my first statement to this question.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson