Chef du jour: Brian Killian
Title: Executive chef, Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale
Location: 155 Temple Street, New Haven 203-772-6664, https://bit.ly/2Giyo4D
Type of Food prepared: New England coastal comfort food
Background/prior jobs/education: Sheraton Stamford, Gaithersburg Hilton, Pittsburg Embassy Suites, Denver Radisson, Hilton Charlotte Executive Park, Doubletree Binghamton, N.Y. Graduated from the Culinary Institute of America.
1. How would you describe the concept of the hotel’s restaurant, John Davenport’s, and who was John Davenport? Local sustainable menu that is very approachable with the best views of New Haven. John Davenport was an Puritan clergyman from England and co-founder of the American colony of New Haven
2. Valentine’s Day is almost here. What plans does the hotel have for those who would like to celebrate at John Davenport’s? Here is a sneak preview of the four-course prix-fixe menu ($59 per person). First course: choice of lobster bisque, shrimp cocktail or grilled brie; second course: choice of spinach or romaine salad; third course: choice of pan-seared scallops, surf & turf (grilled beef tenderloin with shrimp), roasted duck breast or wild mushroom and truffle ravioli; dessert: Amaretto strawberry mouse.
3. What’s the most memorable meal you have ever eaten and where was it and who was there? The Restaurant at Rowayton Seafood, Darien, Conn., with my future wife.
4. What’s the most memorable meal you have ever prepared? I cooked a steak dinner for Dick Cheney at the Pittsburgh Embassy Suites.
5. How did your interest in food and cooking begin? When I was working in the kitchen at a hospital, the dietary department decided to bring on an executive chef to the department. I could not believe the things I saw he could do with foods. He would ask me to help him and my interests in cooking took off.
6. In a nutshell, what is your philosophy on food and dining? Keep it simple. There is nothing like clean, simple cooking. Let the ingredients speak for themselves.
7. Where do you go to relax? I love the beach
8. What do you feel is the next big trend in dining? Plant-based proteins seem like the big thing going on now. Also, the stress relievers in foods such as cooking more with ingredients such as turmeric and the introduction of CBD oils into our food.
9. What did you have for dinner last night and did you cook it yourself? I cooked smoked pork chops with mashed potatoes.
10. My cabinet has room for only three condiments or spices. What should they be? Mustard, hot sauce, horseradish.
11. Surely you are inundated with compliments on your cooking. What’s the most memorable and from whom, if you remember? How about the worst comment? I recently did a tasting for a Jamaican group and prepared jerk chicken and it was a big hit. They were actually commenting on social media about it, so we did put it as a special on the menu and it was a huge success. Worst? Poached pear dessert with ice cream. The pear was rock hard and sliding all over the plate when the guests tried to get a spoonful. To top it off, the mayor attended.
12. My bookshelf has room for only three cookbooks. What should they be? “The Professional Chef,” by Culinary Institute of America, Anthony Bourdain’s “Les Halles Cookbook,” and any of Bobby Flay’s books. I love his big, bold flavors.
13. Imagine you had to prepare a meal for an old-school culinary master, Jacques Pepin. What would you prepare? Lobster soufflé.
14. When you are not cooking and running the Omni’s kitchen, you have fun by…? Spending time with my family.
15. Your favorite food as a child? Tacos, and still is.
16. Your perfect meal is? Classics, such as onion soup, shrimp cocktail, and a perfectly seasoned medium/rare steak with some yummy buttermilk mashed potatoes with gravy.
17. Which celebrity chef do you resemble most? Bobby Flay.
18. What is your favorite ingredient? Chorizo.
19. What’s always in your refrigerator at home? My homemade habanero salsa.
20. What do you like for a quick meal out? Chicken wings at Whiskey Barrel, or Colony Pizza.
21. What inspires you to get up and go to work every day? Creating every day? I like seeing people enjoy the food that we create.
22. What would you do if you weren’t an executive chef? Something to do with math, I’m pretty good with numbers.
23. What’s something about you that someone might not know by looking at you? I love a good, hoppy IPA.
24. Who was your culinary mentor? Chef David Ortiz in Charlotte N.C. He was the first executive chef I worked for who made everything from scratch, and loved to do it at the last minute; crazy man, fun times.
25. What international cuisine do you enjoy cooking the most and why? Mexican, I love the freshness and I love the spiciness.
26. If you had to pick a favorite food, what would it be? Got to stick with the tacos.
27. Name one food that reminds you of your childhood? Dad’s famous burnt chicken on the grill, must say it never was undercooked.
28. What is one of your signature dishes you introduced on the menu? Little blackened tuna tacos with avocado serrano crema, pickled cabbage, pico de gallo, queso blanco, fresh cilantro and lime.
29. What are your two favorite dishes on your menu now? We are currently in the process of changing the menu in the next couple of weeks but one dish that is going to still be on it with be the clams and chorizo, with tomato, wine, garlic, scallions, butter, with some nice crunchy bread to sop up all of the wonderful flavors. The other dish is the braised short ribs with horsey mashed potatoes, with a natural gravy, another yummy dish that melts in your mouth.
30. What changes do you foresee to keep the restaurant fresh and exciting? Keeping up with the trends. Trends are cool, they keep you moving.
31. What is your secret on your most productive days? Lists, I have to have a list. Do all of your thinking, all the math on quantities, amounts to cook and make a list. Then just rock and roll and bang it out.
32. What is your favorite kitchen tool? Robo coup (a commercial food processor), it is a time saver.
33. What’s your Achilles’ heel ingredient, one that you hate to work with or encounter in someone else’s dish? I don’t like anchovies.
34. What dish or ingredient will we never see you eating? Escargot, no way.
35. What is your guilty pleasure food? I love chicken liver.
36. What is your favorite food city to visit? Philadelphia, nothing like their cheesesteaks, pork roll, great pizza, and the Philadelphia food market.
37. What is your favorite late-night snack? Cheese/charcuterie/olives/hot peppers/crackers/mustards/tomato.
38. What’s one must have at your last supper? Scallops would be incorporated somewhere.
39. When you just want to prepare something simple, quick and delicious, what would you make? Lomo saltado, a Peruvian stir-fry with either julienne chicken or beef with onions, peppers, tomatoes, French fries, and some hot sauces.
40. Rapid fire: Ketchup or mustard? Mustard.
Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate.
Coffee or tea? Coffee.
Burger or hot dog? Burger.
41. What are some of your most memorable moments around the table? All the holidays, all the birthdays, all the celebrations, everything always leads to the table.
42. Aside from John Davenport’s, what are some of your favorite dining spots? Puerto Vallarta in Milford, The Restaurant at Rowayton Seafood, Darien.
43. How would you describe the current dining scene in Greater New Haven? Ton of places to eat and the variety of cuisines.
44. How is a hotel restaurant different from a free-standing one? We are open every day, even on all the holidays.
45. The holiday buffets (Easter, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas) are quite popular. How do they differ from the typical holiday buffets? We treat every seating as if it is our first; all fresh-cooked foods, all salads come out new, all buffets are reset, all carved items are fresh out of the oven. It is not the typical ballroom buffet. It is held in the restaurant and adjacent areas. There are several beautifully presented displays of food. And, don’t forget the views.
46. What makes eating at John Davenport’s unique? The view is spectacular, best in the city, and a very well-rounded menu.
47. How do you cope with stress? I have a 21/2-year-old daughter, a day off with her clears the mind.
54. If you were giving a young person interested in a career like yours, some advice would be? Be a sponge, put in your time, don’t take short cuts, taste everything you make, have fun
55. What dish from your menu will you be making to share with the readers? Surf and Turf (Grilled beef tenderloin with shrimp). It will be one of the features on the Valentine’s Day menu.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Season filets with salt and pepper generously. Put a little olive in an oven-proof pan and sear on stove for approximately 5 minutes on each side, over medium/high heat. Set aside.
Boil potatoes until tender, place in bowl and add butter and horseradish. Mash and using a whisk mix and add milk to desired thickness. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Blanch asparagus in boiling water, run under cold water to cool. Place in a pan with olive oil and salt and pepper and toss. Set aside. Prior to getting ready to serve, roast asparagus in oven for 2 minutes.
Mix scampi butter ingredients and mold into a log and refrigerate.
Season shrimp with salt and pepper. In an oven-proof pan, over medium heat, toss shrimp with olive oil and lemon juice. Sauté for about 2 minutes and then add garlic. Cook for about 1 minute more and then add wine. Put the pan in a 400-degree oven and cook for about 2-3 minutes, until done.
To assemble dish: Place mashed potatoes in middle of plate, top with filet, then a slice of scampi butter, then 2 shrimp with tails interlocked. Arrange asparagus resting on side. Serves 4.
Madison Beach Hotel Epicurean Series, A Taste of Tuscany: Feb. 1, 7 p.m., 94, West Wharf Road, Madison, 203-350-0014, $99 plus tax and gratuity. Wine dinner featuring Tuscan wines from Tenuta Torciano Winery paired with a Tuscan-inspired menu. A "wine conductor" direct from Tuscany and the 300-year-old Tenuta Torciano Winery to discuss their wines paired with this dinner. For menu and ticket information, visit https://bit.ly/2vhn1Ia.
7th annual Febtoberfest Craft Beer Festival: Feb. 6 (snow date Feb. 20), 6-9 p.m., hosted by Mattatuck Museum. Waterbury Elks Lodge, 283 W. Main St., Waterbury. $35 in advance, $40 beginning Feb. 3. Designated driver ticket: $10 advance, $15 beginning Feb. 3. Tastings of local beer, wine, and food. Tickets at https://bit.ly/2NQhmir.
Consiglio’s Demonstration Cooking Class: Feb.13, 6:30 p.m., Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, 203-865-4489 (reservations required), $75 (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). Menu: Bolognese and Mozzarella Filled Arancini, Homemade Caesar Salad, Seafood Arrabiatta, Chocolate Cherry Filled Crepes. https://bit.ly/2Nd0xAg
Consiglio’s Mystery Dinner Theater: “Harts A Flutter” Feb. 21, 7 p.m., Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, reservations at 203-865-4489, $65 includes dinner and show (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). An interactive comedy show that goes on throughout the evening during a 3-course meal. Cast mingles table to table, dropping clues for a mystery only you can solve. A family reunion goes terribly wrong. Dress in your finest red attire to compete for top prize! Menu at https://bit.ly/2Ge9QKj.