Shortly after Hunger chefs and owners Brian and Jaime Brooks moved to its new and larger space in Fremont, they realized that they needed yet again, more room. With a much larger kitchen and space to work with, Hunger expanded to include new dishes, more seating, a new sous chef, and a different experience to boot.
Photo courtesy of Brian and Jaime Brooks
With new possibilities came new goals that could potentially extend their needs beyond the new space afforded them by the recent expansion. However, the husband-wife duo is undoubtedly proud of Hunger's new role as Fremont's choice neighborhood restaurant, and that is one label that they both feel fits just right.
How is Hunger's expansion reflected in the menu or experience?
Jaime: [Our location] up the Hill was definitely more challenging. We worked off camp stoves and we had just one oven and four Bunsen burners. Our limitations, like trying to produce a perfectly seared piece of fish, are really hard when your Bunsen burners only produce so much heat. For storage, we only had two double door refrigerators. Now, we have a walk-in, so much space, and burners. We bring whole animals in and butcher them. All of our sausages and burgers are made in-house. The quality has improved; all of our food, our menu, kind of pushed the boundaries in that we're doing things not everyone can do.
Brian: We literally started from scratch. Everything was emptied out. It was the first time we were able to build the kitchen around our menu and build it to accommodate what we want it to do. We wanted to butcher whole animals, and we needed a bigger prep kitchen for that. Plus, the extra space has afforded us to be able to bring in [sous chef] Josh [Slaughter]. Josh has been really helpful in working in conjunction with Jaime to bring in some really cool stuff.
What's the most exciting whole animal that you've brought in for your head-to-tail menu?
Jaime: The pig has been fun. We've gotten great response from the lamb. Soon, you will see goat; that will be one of our fun ones. We try to stay fully local, whether it's Oregon or here. We are limited to what kinds of animals we can bring in because we want it to be local and grass fed.
Brian: Soon you'll see venison. Venison should be right around the corner, which will be awesome. We're trying to get Josh to play with birds too, like pheasant, grouse and goose.
How's Fremont working out for you?
Brian: Oh, very well. Fremont is very neighborhood-centric. It's so nice to develop a rapport with the people that come in. It's almost kind of like Cheers, like, "Hey, here's your gin and tonic, and do you want that cassoulet again?"
Jaime: Because it's a neighborhood [restaurant], the way it kind of works is that when the first table walks in, it seems like we get full. ... We have a rule: nothing should ever take longer than seven minutes to hit a table. We try to take things from where we've worked in the past, where we've eaten in the past, and we try to take the good and the bad from it and apply it to our own restaurant. Waiting for a plate of food for 20 minutes when you're hungry, it's awful. So for us, we try to develop [to] where the way tickets are rung in and the food is cooked are done quickly.
Which restaurants have you brought the good experiences in from?
Jaime: Every place I've worked, there's good that comes out of it. I've been able to take that good, and learn and grow from it. I've worked at Andaluca. It was always very focused on quality. Restaurant Zoe, same thing. Quality was always first and foremost in mind.
Brian: From a freshness and quality aspect, some of the most amazing food we've had recently was from Cantinetta--just amazing products that are freshly prepared and not overdone, just simple.
Jaime: My other favorite place that I love to eat is Tamarind Tree. The food comes out fast, and it's fresh and delicious. They do really wonderful things.
How did you two meet?
Brian: We were both chefs working for the same company. Our food styles were so similar. I would be able to bring something cool to [a dish], and she would be able to add something new to it. We just got so intrigued in each other that I think we hit it off. It was just like, "Let's rule the world together some day." It's kind of like, when you find this harmony of your food styles and your passion for it, it really drew us together.
Jaime: I don't know if it was all food though. We just had a lot in common in general.
Brian: I think she's trying to say I'm dapper.
Jaime: He's the only person where we don't have a dull moment in our relationship.
Is Hunger like your baby then?
Brian: Yeah. We just got married a year and a half ago and everybody is like,
Both in unison: "When are you going to have kids?"
Jaime: ...And I tell them, "This is my child!" I was in labor for this one for at least a year!
You had tweeted about which celebrity chef might be first to visit the new Hunger space. Have you had a visit from one yet?
Jaime: We're not really sure. I think a lot of people make their way in here, and either we're not here or we don't realize it. There was one chef that made it in here--we know of it because of the reservation--and that was Ethan Stowell.
Brian: It was right around the time when all the Top Chef stuff was going on and they were going to Revel all the time.
Jaime: Oh, we were so bummed! Tom Colicchio went to Revel twice and never came to Hunger! I've worked for Jackie Roberts of the Pink Door, and she's been here a number of times. We're getting support from former employers.
Brian: Also, they're not celebrities, but we're getting support from local businesses and it's pretty cool to see them come in. It's great to see those guys and having them say, "We love your place." That's awesome. That means we're doing something right.