Last Monday, Jeremy Barlow of Tayst was the featured chef at the James Beard Dinner in New York. The invitation to cook at the James Beard Dinner was as much of an award for Nashville as it was for Jeremy. It has been some time since Nashville sent a chef to New York, with Sean Brock, chef at the Hermitage, receiving the honor in 2005.
The dinner takes place in Beard’s renovated brownstone is located at 167 West 12th Street, in the heart of Greenwich Village. It is North America’s only historical culinary center, a place where Foundation members, the press and the general public are encouraged to savor the creations of both established and emerging chefs from across the country and around the globe.
With so few chef-owned and operated restaurants in our fair city, Jeremy’s invitation honors his innovation, his creativity and his love of locally grown and inspired cuisine. Understanding how difficult the last few years have been for small businesses, the James Beard invitation is as much a testimony to Jeremy’s staying power as it is to his honored invitation. Way to go, Jeremy!
I took a minute to stop by and visit Jeremy before he boarded the plane to New York. Here are some highlights from one of the most fun interviews of my short career with StyleBlueprint. (I know Jeremy will kill me for saying this, but he’s like a big teddy bear—affable and friendly, and completely disarming.)
Stage note: As Ashley Hylbert, StyleBlueprint’s ace photographer snapped away, Jeremy brought dish after dish for her to photograph. While in the kitchen, Ashley chimed, “Smile, Jeremy.” Without missing a beat, Jeremy answered, “I don’t smile in the kitchen,” as the kitchen staff roared with laughter.
Elizabeth: Do you have any secret weapon to keep you cool and calm on Monday night?
Jeremy: Bourbon. No, not really. Actually, I don’t get stressed out in the kitchen [cue sound effects: kitchen staff howling with laughter, again]
Elizabeth: What have you learned from the series of dinners you have staged in preparation for the James Beard dinner?
Jeremy: Certainly I have friends who have given me some great feedback, but with each dinner, we tweaked the menu ever so slightly, so by the end of the third dinner, we knew exactly where we were going.
Elizabeth: When selecting the items to feature on the menu, what was important to you to showcase about the South and its cuisine?
Jeremy: If you look at the blackboard, you’ll see that I use local vendors. Local purveyors like Benton Hams, Farmer Dave, Bonnie Blue Farm, Hatcher Family Dairy, Long Creek Farm, and the list goes on. [While I was there, Patty Ghertner, a friend and USN mom, hand delivered a basket of gorgeous herbs and edible flowers. Some items featured on Monday’s menu were sasparilla pork bread pudding, trout mignon with collard greens, summer vegetable fricassee with fig gastrique and basil, and for dessert, smoked peaches, peach ice, and bourbon caramel.]
Elizabeth: Ok, I am completely drooling right now. Of the dishes you plan to prepare, which one do you consider tricky and the most difficult?
Jeremy: Do you mean difficult to cook or difficult to plate.
Elizabeth: Ummmm, difficult to plate.
Jeremy: The lamb dish we are preparing takes 7 people to plate. If you consider that I have never stepped foot in the James Beard kitchen and it is half the size of the kitchen at Tayst, that becomes quite a feat. None of us are athletic in here — a sous chef interjects, “Yeah, we’re fat.”– so food preparation and presentation will be a challenge.
Elizabeth: Who are inspired you to become a chef?
Jeremy: No one. I began watching the Food Network before it was hip to do so, when it wasn’t the hot ticket it is now and purely an entertainment medium. You know, fantasy tv. Cooks love the heat of the kitchen, the intensity of the environment – it is addictive. It draws a certain personality type, people who aren’t afraid of high risks. I went to Vanderbilt as a philosophy and psychology major and found my way to Nantucket. I played rugby, and rugby is the same way–addictive and intense. I began hanging out in restaurants and cooking in Nantucket and completely found my passion. The rest is history: 7 1/2 years as owner of Tayst and over 20 years cooking as a professional. [I had to mention that I dated the captain of the rugby team in college, and that pain must also be part of the equation.]
Elizabeth: Are there any similarities between James Beard’s philosophies and your own?
Jeremy: Wow, that’s a good question. No one has asked me that yet.
Elizabeth: Score! I spent all morning trying to think of a question no other media outlet has asked you.
Jeremy: Actually, I don’t know the answer to that. What do you think?
Elizabeth: Yes, I did my homework! James Beard is considered the father of American cuisine, he adored cooking the food of his region and was inspired by the fresh berries and salmon from his hometown in Oregon. He loved to challenge himself creatively by trying new cooking techniques.
Jeremy: Boy, that sounds a lot like me.
Elizabeth: Yep. What is the most difficult part of running a chef-owned and operated restaurant?
Jeremy: Finding the time to do everything [As I walked out the door, Jeremy adjusted a loose screw in the door handle and said, “See what I mean?”]
Elizabeth: You said you were a philosophy major at Vanderbilt. As one of Nashville’s most recognized chefs, what is your philosophy de cuisine?
Jeremy: Regardless of all the global influences, integrate the American style into your cuisine. You know, buy local, and cook American. Five years ago, I couldn’t give pork belly away. Now, I can’t keep it on the menu. Nashville is entering one of the most exciting times in its culinary history with so many incredible chefs doing so many innovative things. I am honored to represent all of my colleagues who are every bit as talented as I am when it comes to presenting Nashville and the best cuisine this city has to offer.
Elizabeth: Thanks so much, Jeremy, and good luck on Monday night!
Here is a special drink recipe for Tennessee Hard Lemonade for all the StyleBlueprint readers, compliments of Chef Jeremy Barlow:
Note: This simple and refreshing cocktail was served at the James Beard Dinner.
- Simple syrup: dissolve 1 cup sugar into 1 cup hot water (Reduce sugar to ¾ cup if you prefer your drink less sweet) OK to make in advance and chill
- Add 1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (4-6 lemons)
- Dilute with 3-4 cups cold water, to taste
- Add 2.5 oz Jack Daniel’s Honey Liqueur to 6 oz. lemonade. Serve with ice and lemon.
A huge thank you to Ashley Hylbert for the photography today. Be sure to check out her new website: www.ashleyhylbert.com