Photo by Leslie Kelly Chef Deb Breuler's Carlton Farms pork tenderloin with Brussels sprouts and butternut squash, served at the brand new Avalon in West
Show us a cook who doesn't dream of opening his or her own restaurant, and we'll faint dead away. It's in every food professional's hard-wiring to want to do it their way, not the highway, right? After many years of working in corporate kitchens, chef Deb Breuler launched Avalon in West Seattle earlier this month. Whether you're managing a staff of hundreds or a handful, the principles remain the same: It's a whole lot of work, most of it not very glam, yet the rewards are mighty satisfying. Here's this week's Grillaxin Q&A:
Photo by Leslie Kelly Chef Deb Breuler's Carlton Farms pork tenderloin with Brussels sprouts and butternut squash, served at the brand new Avalon in West Seattle.
SW: Do you remember the moment you decided you wanted to be a professional cook?
Breule: I was 21 and visited the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. I thought it was amazing that I could go to school and make a career out of something I really loved doing.
What kind of training did you do?
My mom's family had a restaurant in Alaska so I was around the business. I wasn't in the kitchen professionally until I decided to commit to school. Then I worked for some really great chefs trying to find a mentor with the style that suited my temperament. Rick Bayless and Susan Goss were two chefs I worked for in Chicago, and I give them much of credit for my development as a chef.
How did you get the gig personal-chef-ing for a movie star? What was that like?
I started out doing it as a favor to a friend in Chicago. The movie we were working on (Payback with Mel Gibson) took us to L.A. I did several other feature films, met a hairdresser who worked for Jennifer Jones (she won an Oscar in 1944 for The Song of Bernadette) as a personal hairdresser. and she asked me to work with her. It was a pretty short gig, but I ended up doing private jets in L.A. because of it.
You were at Maggiano's for five years, right? What was it like to coordinate such a huge operation? What was the biggest challenge you faced?
I worked for Maggiano's for 10 years: five in L.A. and five here in Bellevue. Working the corporate-restaurant scene was a great way to have a family. When you run a restaurant that large, staffing is your biggest challenge. I was able to do a lot of recipe development with them and I learned so much about running a business.
Now you're moving in a completely different direction. Is there anything you learned in the big corporate-kitchen world that you'll be bringing to the table at your new place?
I was able to hire some of the cooks and waiters I had worked with for years. All the same principles exist in a small place: control waste, control labor.
Check back for part two of this week's Grillaxin Q&A for more with Avalon chef/owner Deb Breuler.