What is your favorite kitchen gadget?
My favorite kitchen tool is my micro-plane. A lot of the cooking I do is amplified by the addition of a few last minute touches such as grated lemon zest and olive oil over a piece of fish. Or fresh grated nutmeg over roasted vegetables after they have been plated and are ready to serve. The heat of the vegetables blooms the aromas of the spice and it creates a really wow experience at the table. The micro-plane is the best tool for this as they are super sharp and stay so for many uses giving you a really bright clean tasting garnish.
What is the most overrated food/technique in restaurants today?
Most overrated food technique today is anything that the cook doesn’t really understand. I don’t want to categorically deny the value of the highly technical new trends, some of it is done very very well by some cooks. But most cooks don’t understand the new techniques well enough for the method to not be a distraction from the original ingredient. Like great bread bakers, there is an acknowledgment that they are participating in the creation and process of a really fine product. Too many restaurant cooks simply impose themselves and their techniques on the food rather than participating in its production. I don’t mean to be a hippy about this, but to my preference, a good understanding of and humility to your ingredients will always taste better than outright manipulation of the food.
If you were to open a restaurant with a different type of cuisine than what you are cooking now, what would it be?
I would open a market, in fact I am opening a market. I am very interested in the possibility of helping people to create their own sense of gastronomy. I think that it is a lot of fun to speak with people about their own food experiences and to help provide ingredients, guidance, and a forum for new experiences. I like the idea too of re-associating people with their own kitchens as a source of sustainable practices. Especially with seafood, most people tend to eat it only at restaurants thus leaving the consumer decision and dialogue in the hands of chefs. If the regular consumer got more engaged in talking about sustainable seafood then the ripple effect would be huge.
What is your favorite local product or purveyor to work with?
I really like the guys at Rappahannock River Oyster Co. They are the ideal poster company for what sustainability is all about. They are a family of fourth generation oystermen on the Chesapeake and they are farming some really great products. I really believe that it is our patriotic duty to eat more farmed oysters. Not only do the oysters create sustainable economic development and jobs for hard hit coastal communities, they are also helping to clean our nation’s waterways all the while providing a net gain of nutritious protein! They have number of different oysters that all have very unique flavors that they like to refer to as ‘meroir’ a take off of the french term for ‘a taste of place’. They are also just some of the nicest people that you could hope to meet. They are rooted in their community and have vision for helping others in the region to also begin to work towards a more restorative relationship with our marine resources.
What is your biggest customer pet peeve?
My biggest customer pet peeve, I don’t really have one. I really give people the benefit of the doubt. Allergies are taken very seriously. Requests, even silly ones, are our business to take care of. I don’t mind cooking things well done, if that’s what they enjoy then I will give it to them. I will say though that there are some things that I just simply do not understand. Such as the walk-in 18 person party. Who walks around with 17 other people looking for dinner? I don’t know 17 people that I would like to have dinner with at the same time! It is just weird to me. What is really strange is that it happens all the time. 5-6 times a week! The business is great so I am not complaining, it is just kind of strange.
What do you drink/eat after work?
After work I always eat the same thing. Cavatelli with broccoli rabe and sausage at Sette restaurant. It is a great dish, consistently prepared, cheap and the restaurant is open late.
What is your favorite thing to cook at home?
Favorite thing to cook at home is a big batch of soup. I go to the Sunday market and stock up on all sorts of things and then make a big pot of vegetable soup, or stew more like it. It lasts for days and my wife eats it for lunch. That way I know she is getting vegetables. It is also nice because while I still have the wherewithal to cook is when all of the chopping happens. Then when I am tired of cooking, all that is left is to throw it all int he pot and wait for a couple of hours. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and MEALTIME!
Visit Barton’s website for a plethora of recipes including one for Pan-Seared Chesapeake Rockfish with Minted Pumpkin and Pecan Sauce