Behind the Counter with Hitchcock’s Brendan McGill

Northwest Community Monday, August 26, 2013 Written by

Ever wonder what chefs eat when they’re cooking for themselves? Or what special gadgets and cooking tools they use in their home kitchen? In this series, Behind the Counter, we’re profiling a few well-known Northwest chefs to see how they approach healthy eating and cooking both at their restaurants and at home.

First up in our “Behind the Counter” series is chef Brendan McGill. Winner of Food & Wine’s “The People’s Best New Chef” in 2013, McGill has made quite a name for himself through the success of his restaurant Hitchcock.

We chatted with Brendan to learn about his approach to cooking with local, authentic, “real” food, along with a few recipe ideas and tools for cooking at home.

Brendan in the kitchen at Hitchcock

Brendan in the kitchen at Hitchcock. (Photo by Jay Trinidad)

Actively Northwest: How would you describe your overall approach to cooking?

Brendan McGill: Old-school, I guess. We [at Hitchcock] have a more global perspective, and certainly greater access to information than our grandmother’s generation, but most of the techniques we use are very classic.

ANW: How does this old-school approach influence the foods you serve at Hitchcock and Hitchcock Deli?

McGILL: Because of our location, we’re able to buy food from local farmers and prepare those foods at their foundation. We utilize broader concepts of cooking, like fermentation, meat curing and aging, that few other restaurants bother with. And we apply those to humble foods in the deli, such as a pastrami sandwich.

ANW: Does this same approach translate to the food you cook for yourself at home?

McGILL: I’ve got a kettle Weber (grill) that I love to cook with outside. I smoke chickens and legs of lamb, usually paired with a fresh salad or raw vegetables. I also enjoy making a large paella. I use imported rice, saffron and piquillo peppers, but everything else is local and seasonal.

(Note: to make this at home, check out these paella on the grill and salad recipes)

ANW: Are there any specific kitchen tools or gadgets home cooks should use or try?

McGILL: Pro chefs are less into gadgetry than home cooks, but I really enjoy my plating tongs by Global. They’re like a set of chopsticks but are forged steel and hinged. Another must-have is a high-powered blender like Vita-Prep for those perfectly smooth purees or emulsions.

ANW: What’s the key to preparing amazing meals?

McGILL: The point is that real food tastes great. Go find the goods, cook it respectfully, and you’ll really taste the difference. Line up a pastured egg from a small farm with its grocery-store counterpart and you’ll see there’s no comparison.

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To taste what McGill is talking about for yourself, head to Bainbridge Island and get a delicious and memorable meal from Hitchcock. For more information on the great farmers and local producers that Brendan works with, head over to his website.