Oddfellows Chef Brady Williams on Running a Smooth Kitchen and His Bon Iver-Inspired Dish
In part one of our three parter, Oddfellows Chef Brady Williams told us about his icy road to cooking, while part two covered his take on the Dallas food scene. Today we learn a little about how he runs things in his restaurants and end with a discussion on music, photography and tattoos.
Kelsey Foster Brady Williams, with visions of a Tom Waits Gumbo dancing in his head.
How do you deal with negative feedback in your restaurants?
I think that something can always be gained whether that feedback is positive or negative. There have been times when I've had to come out to a table or someone has gotten my attention in the dining room. If there is an issue and they want to speak with me, then usually the feedback is constructive. The goal is to really just approach those situations with an open-ear and humility and try and make it right, both this time and moving forward. There's always room for improvement.
Now that you are in the role of Food and Beverage Director for Oddfellows, Eno's and the new place in the West Village, what do you consider key to keep things running smoothly in the front of the restaurant?
I don't work directly with the servers a lot, but with that said, so much of what they do is tied to the operations of the kitchen, there is some overlap. The biggest thing is communication and making sure they have the information necessary about our food and beverage programs to provide an enjoyable experience for the guest.
On the bar and coffee side, so much of that centers around hospitality. Mostly I'll work closely with our leadership in each program, making sure that both the quality of product and service are where we expect them to be. Sometimes that means rolling up the sleeves and slinging food and drinks on the line, and other times it means empowering our managers to make the decisions and carry out our vision while playing support.
What are your favorite foodie books?
French Laundry By Thomas Keller
On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee
Ideas in Food by Aki Kamozawa
Mission Street Food by Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz
Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine by René Redzepi
Have you ever considered hosting a music-inspired dinner party?
I have actually been talking about doing a dinner paired to music for about a year now. The structure, form, story, time and place, and mood of a song would all influence each dish.
Have you come up with any solid concepts yet?
I've been working on a dish inspired by a Bon Iver concert. It's still in the conceptual phase, but the theme would be "a winter's hunt in the woods." I'm thinking some sort of game with "soil" and "snow," baby carrots or maybe even beets, with a puree of beets or some kind of berry reduction to produce a blood-splatter effect on the plate. That's more of a rough sketch than anything, but kind of an idea on the thought process.
Also, I'm really excited to do a Tom Waits' Alice-inspired dish. I'm not sure which song, but it's a really gritty album with some jazz influence. Songs of forbidden love and despair and death. It's probably going to turn into a play on gumbo with blood sausage or heart.
If you could travel anywhere for dinner tonight, where would you go?
Japan. It's on my bucket list. My lineage starts in Japan. My great grandfather was a photographer and was recruited to document the war under the command of Captain Edward Steichen. He lived there for quiet some time; my grandmother and mother were both born in Japan.
He must have been an accomplished photographer?
His name was Horace Bristol. He became close with a group called f/64 that was a photography collective in San Francisco, which Ansel Adams was a part of. He was commissioned by Life to photograph migrant farm workers in California during the Great Depression, and he actually hired John Steinbeck to write for his project, which eventually turned into the Grapes of Wrath. It was all amazing work. I've taken copies of his work to a tattoo artist to study and create illustrations from both his work in California and Japan for a sleeve on my right arm.