Twelve Days of Chefmas: Greg Martell
While we love inundating your Instagram feeds with daily doses of food porn, we are firm believers that you should know the people behind your food as well as where it is coming from. Our 12 Days of Chefmas series seeks to introduce you to the faces behind some of your favorite restaurants and brands. Follow along for the next 12 days as we help you get to know these talented humans a little better.
Greg Martell | Chef/Owner Chief Brody's Banh Mi
How you got started in the kitchen:
When I was 8 I used to spend a lot of time after school at an old school Italian red sauce joint on the Hudson River called Sallozzo's in Ossining, NY. Let's just say my family was close to the owners, so the cooks used to occupy my time and give me jobs in the kitchen; like stirring giant pots of red sauce and picking parsley and basil and feeding the cats out back. I used to see fishermen bring in shad from the Hudson River super fresh, and they would trade the shad with the Latino cooks and the cooks would keep the fish for themselves because the owners wouldn't allow them to put a fish like shad on the menu. So they used to make family meal shad fish escabeche or something, which I loved. I was fascinated by the deals and comradery and dynamics that went down in the kitchen. And at an early age, I really didn't understand why the owners wouldn't want to put fish from a fisherman's hands on the menu- maybe it was the PCB's, but it was damn good.
Your favorite ingredient to work with:
Beer! CT has so much great local craft beer to offer, and I have been enjoying experimenting with what works and what doesn't with my cooking. Like a beer barrel-aged in a mescal barrel is a great starter for a brine for chicken thighs, or sometimes IPA's turn very quickly and sour during a marinating or brining process, so I have found favorites to finish with instead. Some of the more crispy, acidic beers are good to finish with on the back-end of the cooking process. The best way to experience this is to go to one of the great breweries. When you are drinking the beer that was used to cook your food with, it just makes the experience more interesting and dynamic.
Favorite item on your menu:
My pate. I decided to actually use my late mother-in-law Kathie's chopped liver recipe in lieu of the traditional French pate because it is the best thing ever and we feel like it allows us to share a little bit of her beautiful soul with our guests as well as have her spirit be a part of it . This was always my favorite thing she would make for special occasions- I had been known to be caught breaking in to it with my fingers before it was served and would get yelled at. This shit is so good. My wife makes it now for the truck- beef livers, hard boiled eggs, caramelized onions. It makes us all feel a little closer to her. She would be laughing at me for using this as an excuse to keep eating it on a daily basis.
Favorite holiday dish to eat or cook:
We make a fresh seafood ravioli together as a family every Christmas Eve. And at dinner on Christmas day there is copious amounts of lasagna. My favorite thing is to circle back to it around 11pm and make a mash-up bowl of lasagna, meatballs, mashed potatoes, sauce-- wrap it in plastic and jam it in the microwave.
Restaurant in CT that you're dying to try:
I have really been enjoying what has been coming out of the CT pop-ups. It's been great seeing what happens when you get different personalities and styles in the same room; they write a menu together for one night, lower the prices and see what happens. Maybe someone comes with a pocket full of white alba truffles or like when my friend Ken sent me fresh dried peppercorns that he grew on his property in Kauai that we used once. I love to see the little things that people bring that aren't on the menu that push the boundaries. Sometimes magic can happen. There is something really creative and raw and kick-ass that comes out of these things.
Funniest kitchen story:
Toss up. The knife throwing contest? The time we almost beat up Keanu Reeves and a Hell's Angel had to break us up? The story of getting out of service at 3am and then jumping on a boat to go 40 miles off shore to go sharking (not the best decision of my life). Being chosen to translate what the chefs from Worcester, MA were talking about to the Jamaican cooks one summer? Or driving 10 drunk people in my food truck after a Montauk, NY wedding to Liar's Saloon? Too many to choose from. I'm getting old.