See How This Executive Chef Throws Down in His Kitchen
Written By: Matthew J. Black
Photographed By: Josie Gonzales
A chef’s natural element is the kitchen. Chef Brent Hersant spends a lot of time in his natural element, cooking for two restaurants and a family at home. Those restaurants are side by side; GARAGE Kitchen + Bar, and its neighbor The Shout! House. If you’ve never stopped in, then you’re missing out on Chef Hersant’s delicious, classic-style meals with modern twists. But there’s certainly more to a chef than the magic in the kitchen. What happens when the chef goes home and cooks for himself and his family?
Chef Hersant enjoys the process of adding his personal touch to the classics. A good example of this is his Fried Chicken Sandwich, but he rarely cooks something like this at home. With different mouths to feed and kitchens that are like comparing apples and oranges, we wanted to visit with Chef Hersant to find out what the differences are between cooking at home and cooking en masse.
“Cooking at home is a lot harder,” Chef Hersant said, “because you don’t get to use high-performance cooking stoves.” With his limited resources at home, Chef Hersant opts for the barbecue more often than not. He likes preparing his food before tossing it on the grill, and then he sits back with a cold one. While his meat cooks, he’ll look to his garden and pick vegetables to include in his meal.
Back in his kitchen, you’ll find some of his favorite ingredients to keep around. Chef Hersant enjoys pickling food, so there’s always plenty of material for that in his pantry. In his refrigerator, you’ll find Valentina hot sauce, a Mexican hot sauce with a lot of flavor. And since Chef Hersant will do different takes on tacos, this ingredient is a must.
For the main course, Chef Hersant likes to add a modern twist to Asian cuisine, like with the Chinese Lobster Roll. “This is my take on a classic Lobster Roll, but with Asian fusion,” said Hersant. “To prepare, I steamed the bao bun, then crisp it in salt and pepper and butter.” Next, he sautés the lobster with chili butter, Asian lemon yuzu and fresh basil. Once ready, he stuffs the lobster into the bun and adds green onion as a garnish, after placing it in ice water, which makes it curl.
For his next dish, seared diver scallops with pork belly, he starts by sautéing the scallops in salt, pepper and olive oil, and then finishes them with butter. The pork belly is cooked for four hours in the oven at 350 degrees. Then, he adds something you wouldn’t expect—orange juice, Coca Cola, Sprite and milk. The soda and the lactic acid from the milk help to soften the meat before he brazes the pork with this mixture. After four hours in the oven, he cools it down, cuts it up and uses the remaining marinade as a glaze as he sears the pork. He finishes it off with a sweet pea purée, cannellini beans and microgreens as a garnish.
Even though Chef Hersant loves to cook meat and seafood, he prefers to eat vegetables. He likes to soften them up by sautéeing them in a pan, and then he usually adds a grain like rice. At home, he keeps it simple, and he’s very health conscious. This is important because not only is he feeding himself, but his wife and four kids. Even with all these mouths to feed, he still has to be aware of making smaller portions, something he’s not accustomed to at GARAGE Kitchen + Bar.
GARAGE Kitchen + Bar and The Shout! House offer challenges of their own, and most chefs don’t have to be as creative as Chef Hersant. The restaurant and the bar share a single kitchen. Two venues under one roof, with two completely different menus. The Shout! House and their Dueling Pianos serves top notch bar food, and GARAGE Kitchen + Bar serves farm fresh American-Asian-fusion cuisine. “We use a lot of the same ingredients, but you’d never know it,” he said.
With a diverse food background, Chef Hersant is well-equipped for the challenge of running two menus through one kitchen. In culinary school, he learned French cuisine, which teaches the best methods in the world for cooking food he said. After stints at a classic French restaurant named Hexagone, and Italian restaurant Cin Cin Simply Italian, Chef Hersant worked under three different Executive Chefs at Beaumont’s in La Jolla. “The volume of food we cooked was enormous at Beaumont’s,” he said. “It taught me a lot about teamwork, and how to control your costs.”
Now he’s the Executive Chef of CHW Entertainment’s two restaurants. At the end of the day, he finds himself in his home kitchen where he’s just Brent. He likes the quiet and taking his time, but the expectations are no less great. “When cooking for my family and friends they expect it to be really good,” he said with a laugh, “But that’s the life I chose!”
Farm to Home: When Chef Brent sources his ingredients for home cooking, he looks no further than his backyard. He grows tomatoes, bell peppers, chilies and he has an herb garden, too.
GARAGE Kitchen + Bar
655 Fourth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
The Shout! House
655 Fourth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
Chef Brent Hersant Shares His Favorite Meals to Cook at Home