Thursday, March 10, 2011

Michael Foust, Part 2: Beepers, Broccoli and Bryant's

Posted By on Thu, Mar 10, 2011 at 10:00 AM

The farmer greens salad at the Farmhouse made our top 50 dishes last year.
  • The farmer greens salad at the Farmhouse made our top 50 dishes last year.

If it seems like chef Michael Foust is always at the Farmhouse talking to diners about their meals or about new items on the menu, that's because he is. Last year, Foust took four days off, just one of the things Fat City learned in yesterday's interview with him. 

Today, he confesses his love for cereal and the Vietnam Cafe. Tomorrow, he'll suggest a few beer pairings and tell us why beer should be an important part of any menu.
 

What are your culinary inspirations? I find it all over the place. That's because Mother Nature has a way of growing ingredients that work together. With us being so seasonal, we try to stay true to the origin of the food. We pick things that go together and naturally work together. Squash and apples, sage and rosemary, all that late seasonal stuff. Mother Nature has a master plan that is much better than what we've got. I'm big into the heritage movement, using heritage rabbits and hogs because I want to get back to what it used to be.  

What's your favorite ingredient? It changes. In the wintertime, it's duck, pork, lamb, root vegetables, parsnips. I'd go with pork and the tip-to-tail concept. Using every part and piece of the animal is fun. And I love pork. It's a less expensive meat. It's hard to play with wagyu.  

What's your best recent food find? Striped bass larb. It's Laotian, a dish I'd never had. There's cilantro and minced meat with all these fresh herbs and green onions. It's garlic and sausage wrapped up in a lettuce leaf. It's just really good. 

Your favorite local ingredient? We already paid homage to the pig ... how about the duck? No, I take it back. Green Dirt cheese. The Dirt Lover's for the flavor and the texture. We did a bar dinner out there last year. And we just signed on to do another on July 30. I had a blast. They gave me two whole lambs. It was beautiful. We did six couses with fun things like lamb belly and bacon. It's one of my favorite meals I've ever done. 

One food you hate? Broccoli. It's my nemesis. It's the texture, flavor, color and smell. I don't want to have anything to do with it as a vegetable. Broccoli has never been in a restaurant where I wrote the menu. You could smother it in chili and cheese, and I would still smell it.

One food you love? Vietnamese. I love all Vietnamese food, and I have yet to explore the menu completely. The only thing I can't do is fermented fish. My palate isn't quite there yet.
 
What's never in your kitchen? Everything. I don't have anything in my kitchen. Whatever chef tells you that he comes home to cook masterful meals is not telling you the truth. 

What's always in your kitchen? Shatto milk and six different kinds of cereal. I've got Frosted Mini Wheats, two types of granola, and Honey Nut Cheerios. I bought some granola with waffle cone mixed in, and it was incredible. But four bowls cost like 10 bucks, so I've been trying to ration it. Peanut butter and jelly. Organic ground peanut butter -- I like chunky and blackberry preserves. One of my favorites is orange marmalade. 

What would you like to see more of in Kansas City from a culinary standpoint? Independently owned restaurants -- there's not enough. Less chains. I see people outside with beepers waiting to go in, and it boggles my mind. We were out at the Legends the other night, and the brewpub had a line with beepers on a Tuesday night. It must be the best food ever. If you come down to my place on a Tuesday night, I'm grabbing you and pulling you in.

I feel like we're doing this for a reason, and that's to educate people about food. We're keeping everything under $25 a plate, and I'm hoping that I can show the next restaurateur that it can be done. 

How has the River Market changed in the past year? I honestly don't know how it's changed. I didn't know from the beginning. I only knew the City Market from when my parents used to bring me down here as a kid. And now, I know it's one of the best city markets I've seen, anywhere. There's easy access, and I don't have to pick up the phone and order. I can just go down there. They keep my inventory; it's awesome. Bloom is our bakery. I love to work within the neighborhood, and I'm lucky to have a great neighborhood with great business owners. I love this area. I look down the street, and it's one of the prettiest streets in Kansas City. It's the red brick, old town feel, and then at the end of the street, you have the skyscrapers of the city. 

Where are you eating if you're not in your restaurant? Vietnam Cafe. I love everything there. That's one menu I've worked my way through forwards and backwards. I love the bun, the quail. It's been wonderful lately. It's marinated, then roasted, almost crispy.

If you could steal one menu item off anybody's menu in town? Nothing, that's their's. 

One book that every chef should read? Escoffier or A Day at El Bulli -- 24 hours in that kitchen, that can make any chef feel small. I think I do a lot, but then I look at what they do and wow, that's a lot in 24 hours. 

Who's got the best barbecue in town, and what are you ordering? Arthur Bryant's old pit on Brooklyn. I'm getting the beef sandwich. There you know what you're getting; the pit has been seasoned over time. That's years and years of know-how and love. You go out to the Legend, and I like the Legends, but it's not the same barbecue. I'm an Arthur's guy.

A chef is only as good as ... the people that he works with. I think everybody says that it's his last dish. We all have hiccups. The people that surround me have moments. I have moments. But if you have a good crew, they'll pick up your slack.

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