Today, as part of the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, we're coming at you live from the Eater Lounge at the Limelight Hotel. This year we're on the upper deck; if you're in the neighborhood, do come say hello. If you're not, watch for Q&As and breaking news tidbits throughout the day.
Max MacKissock of the Squeaky Bean stopped by and talked about waking up naked by the pool in Aspen, future ideas for a new restaurant, and how one gets a job at the Squeaky Bean.
What is on your agenda for this year's FOOD & WINE Classic? This year I'm going to try and find some balance. Go for bike rides during the day and party at night. I will definitely destroy shellfish on the patio at Ajax at least once. I have worked the tents in the past and done dinners, but this year I wanted to enjoy and relax. Last night we went to Above The Salt where a friend of mine is the assistant general manager. Jen [Jasinski] and I met up some friends at the Sky Hotel and then we went to the Little Nell.
From previous years, what is your most interesting memory? Every year is filled with good memories. Some are memorable, some embarrassing. I seem to remember one night going to bed late then somehow waking up naked next to the pool in our apartment building. There were people sleeping on the couch, I went to bed with Jen, and next thing I knew, the sun woke me up I was by the pool. Naked. I could swear I was abducted by aliens or something. I bet there are some funny pictures out there from that one.
The Squeaky Bean, in its new location, is now a year old. How has it evolved and what is next? The first year was all about creating a culture and understanding where we wanted to take the direction, know that we are getting comfortable. It's time to really push now.
What is the biggest lesson you learned in the last twelve months at the new Bean? To find balance in life. Too much work is not good for your body. When I go into work, I can't just go for a little while. If I go, it's going to be a 15 hour day. I just learned to schedule more days off. That became easier in the last couple of months because the team is very solid now.
Would you consider doing another restaurant - and, if yes, what would it be?I have tunnel vision so right now it's all about the Bean and the farm. But, to answer the question: yes, I will most definitely open other restaurants in the future. I have many different interests in different cuisines, so I think it would be very clearly defined in its concept. Maybe Italian because that was my pedigree and it's also my favorite food to eat.
What advice do you have for a young person who wants to become a chef? Skip culinary school, take that money and work for free in the best restaurants that you can. Going to culinary school is expensive. This is a bad predicament for people in our industry: coming out of culinary school with a great amount of debt is terrible because the job you are likely to get will pay $11 per hour. If you took the money you'd spend on culinary school and used it to live somewhere and work for free in some of the best restaurants out there, that would put you way ahead of the game. And if you go to culinary school, go to a more affordable one, a simple one that provides you with basic skills. For me, it doesn't matter if someone looking for a job went to culinary school or not. It just makes no difference. keep your head down work hard and leave any ego at home.
How does one get a job cooking at the Squeaky Bean? Everyone has to do a stage. The first thing we do is an egg test. As soon as they in the door, without even letting them changed, there are three sets of eggs. I want one poached, one sunny-side-up, and another scrambles. I can see more in how they do that than I can see in an entire day of working with them - how they move, how they react to that kind of pressure, and how the eggs turn out. Eggs are one of my favorite things to cook. You see young chefs wanting to cook complicated things when they can't cook potatoes, they can't make soup, and they can't poach an egg.
How do you poach in egg? In shallow water with a tiny bit of vinegar at 180 degrees. I like to swirl with a spoon or a whisk. It is mostly just about folding the white over the yolk so you can get that perfectly shaped egg. Eggs are one of my favorite things to cook. You see young chefs wanting to cook complicated things when they can't cook potatoes, they can't cook eggs, and they can't make soup.