July 15, 2012 -
Q+A with Chef Brandon Walukas: The Spice Summer Menu
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (literally), you’ve probably noticed how unbelievably sizzling hot it’s been. And while this weather may have stunted some of the local produce, it hasn’t slowed down Spice Executive Chef Brandon and his crew from turning out the same mouth-watering dishes 6 days a week. With the Spice Acres in full swing, the creative cook has been experimenting – and the summer menu has never looked better. But be warned, some seasonal favorites have been benched. We’ll get to the bottom of this with a full interrogation of our seasonal mastermind.
Q. What’s up with taking the Andouille Burger off the menu? Are you trying to start a customer revolt? And will it ever return?
A. I believe in shaking things up. The pickled peppers that we use on the burger aren’t in season, so we wanted to switch it up until they were available again. Customers seem to be pretty happy with the replacement, which is a pulled pork sandwich that we’ve paired with chili vinegar chips. It’s a play on Mustard BBQ and Carolina BBQ on the same plate. It’s a nice, summer meal that people crave. But not to worry, the Andouille Burger will absolutely be back.
Q. What else is on deck for Spice’s summer menu? Are there any recurring veggies or spices we’ll see/taste?
A. The heat and lack of rain have slowed things down this summer. We’re just starting to see corn at the markets. When you’re from Ohio, you’ve got to love corn, so that will be incorporated in many of the dishes. Tomatoes are just starting to roll in too, so we’ll have a beautiful heirloom tomato salad on the menu. Chilis and peppers are coming in, which are fantastic. Zucchinis, squashes, eggplant. All of these things influence me and will be reflected in the menu.
Q. The gardens in the back and the patio have been planted – what will you be pulling fresh from there this summer?
A. Just today we just pulled a couple pounds of arugula and mizuna. We’re always grabbing herbs from out back too. And there’s so many tomato plants on the roof that are filling out. Our farm manager and gardeners do a great job. My garden looks halfway decent, but Spice Acres looks amazing. Everything that we keep planting, I’m going to keep pulling.
Q. What are some guest favorites that you’re seeing? Are you surprised by any of them?
A. The guests always love the specials. All of the fish dishes have been a hit. One thing that we’ve been selling out of that surprises me are the gourmet burgers. They’re big, hearty house-ground burgers. They’re not always on the menu, but when they are, people love ‘em. But it really just depends on the day and what people are in the mood for.
Q. What is the one Spice dish we must try before fall – and why?
A. That’s hard to say, because for me personally, mood dictates everything. Every dish we put on the menu, I’ve had a craving for at one time or another. I would encourage others to try different dishes based on their own moods.