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Chef Brian Walczyk has worked within Tom Douglas' group of restaurants for several years, moving back and forth amid the Belltown restaurants (and working with

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Cheeseburgers, Sausage, and Meatloaf: Grillaxin' with Palace Kitchen's Brian Walczyk

walczyk.jpg
Chef Brian Walczyk has worked within Tom Douglas' group of restaurants for several years, moving back and forth amid the Belltown restaurants (and working with some of the area's best chefs) along the way. Now chef at Palace Kitchen, Walczyk summarizes his journey: "I'm the chef at the Palace Kitchen, and I have been for four months. Before that I was chef at the Dahlia Lounge for the previous two years. Prior to the Dahlia, I helped open Lola as the sous chef and eventually was the chef for a brief stint until Mark Fuller left to open Spring Hill. Then I went across the street (to Dahlia)." Now from his post up the street and around the corner, Walczyk tells Voracious a little more about himself and his love of simple food, including a lifelong dedication to cheeseburgers.

Is there an ingredient or dish that you're particularly into these days?

I would say the Palaceville bratwurst I was running for a few months. We were serving it with a warm pretzel that Garret our pastry chef was making.That and some homemade sauerkraut, and apple mustard.

How do you think the bratwurst reflects your cooking interests?

I like simple delicious food. I like to think that the food I make is easily approachable, not simple as in boring, just not over complicated.

There is nothing particularly complicated about a bratwurst and pretzel, but it does take solid technique for Garret to make the pretzel, and for me to make a good sausage.

What was your favorite food when you were a kid?

I would have to say a cheeseburger, still is now. I remember eating burgers off the Weber, and going to Fudruckers in Milwaukee.

Where do you think the better burgers are in Seattle?

Well, I think we've got a great burger at the Palace, obviously. When Seattle Metropolitan put out their "best burgers" article, I actually tried to go eat all of them, that's how deep my dedication is. Zippy's was a great burger. But there are different levels of burger, from high end to basic. Mark at Spring Hill's got a great burger, but it's so over the top good, and it's expensive. Meanwhile at Zippy's, you watch the guy cook a burger and there's a huge napalm explosion of grease. It depends on what you're in the mood for.

Seattle's become a huge burger town. Everyone has a burger now. And that's great. When I make burgers at home, I make them taste just like a Dick's deluxe, or sometimes I get more elaborate -- grinding my own meat, that kind of thing.

Is there a dish you think everyone should be able to make?

That's kind of an odd question. . .is there a song everyone should be able to sing? But if you can't make a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup, you lack some major brain power.

Where would you eat if you had just $5? $100?

If I got 5 on it, I'm going to Dick's for a Deluxe and a shake.

With the Benjamin I'm going to Spring Hill. I have been lucky enough to work with some great chefs at the Dahlia when I was coming up as a cook -- John Sundstrom, Matt Costello, and Mark Fuller. Mark is doing it right in West Seattle.

Do you cook at home? What's your favorite dish to cook?

If it's a great day out my wife and I will call up people and bust up the char griller and barbecue. If it's rainy and miserable, I am making a soup. So I make a lot of soup. I don't really have a favorite dish to cook at home, but my favorite dish to eat is my wife Beatrice's meatloaf.

What's your favorite guilty pleasure?

Ice Cream. I can demolish ice cream. There is always bacon, but come on, who doesn't like bacon?

Any favorite cookbooks?

The new Momofuku book is bananas. Another book is Seven Fires by Francis Mallmann. I have been lucky to work on a wood grill, and I'm never going back to anything else.

Another chef I talked to, Tyler Palagi, mentioned Seven Fires too. What is it about that cookbook, and what is it about wood grilling in general that's so exciting?

There's just so much more that you can do with the power of smoke, and with a grill that gets that hot. With gas you're not really grilling, you're just, well, cooking over some gas. Smoke adds all the flavor, as well as caramelization.

Seven Fires is all about taking caramelization to an almost burnt, totally new level of flavor. And that's a new point of view that I'd never heard of. It draws from different cultures, and all sorts of Argentinian ways of grilling. There's lots of new techniques and food in there that I don't normally see. I've made some things at home with that intense caramelization and it's awesome, and so I've tried to use it in my menus too.

 
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