head chef: steve yeanish
location: oley valley inn - oley,pa
recipe: eggs inn style
The first one would have to be my mother—she was the most incredible cook. She could make something from nothing. There were nine of us, seven children. My mother would buy five pounds of turkey backs at the farmer's market for a dollar and make three meals out of it. She'd make turkey croquets, turkey pot pie, and turkey soup with some of the broth. She was really a good baker as well, so I really learned a lot from her. More from observation than anything.
From there, I took a job at a private country club and worked under European-trained chef, Patrick Gory. He was an excellent chef and I really learned well from him. From that point, I went on to the Culinary Institute and graduated with high honors. Honestly, my mother and Pat Gory were the biggest influences on my cooking.
Where did you learn to cook?
Basically my cooking was started at home and at the Brookside Country Club. After I graduated from the Culinary Institute, I worked at Milo's Country House just outside of Pottstown. It was a very nice fine dining restaurant at the time and it really had a big influence on my style of cooking and the things I do here now. Especially our roast duck—the recipe and technique pretty much came from there. My variation was taken from that and fine-tuned. It was a first-class house and they used the best ingredients and I really learned a lot from John Milo. He was a very strong restaurateur. He ran a really tight operation and was a real inspiration to me.
Well I have to say I have a series of cookbooks that are my favorite and it's called the Culinaria series. Each book is devoted to one country and it breaks down the regions and the foods of the region. I love ethnic food, any kind of ethnic food, and these recipes are all the real thing. Anytime I need to do a special party or a special menu I know I can count on these books to find authentic recipes using the indigenous ingredients from the country. I use them as a reference, but they are also a beautiful picture book as well--just to read and get ideas and inspiration.
What's the one ingredient you could not live without?
Onions and bacon. I have to give it to both. They go hand in hand. My favorite aroma is when onions hit rendered bacon in a pan--when you're doing it as a soup or a base for a dish, it's the most incredible aroma there is.
Favorite Microbrew beer or wine?
I have to say Yuengling Lager. Years ago I saw Yuengling lager on Dans' menu at Dans' Restaurant and I thought --Oh my God I can't believe he's got Yuengling Lager. Then, I started to realize how popular it was, now they can barely keep up with the production. It's so smooth and it goes with a lot of different foods, and it's very refreshing.
Favorite music to listen to while cooking?
I listen to an eclectic variety of music such as David Bowie, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Barbara Streisand.
Favorite type of food?
Comfort food. Down home, braised dishes, braised beef, braised pork, slow-cooked chicken, stews—real simple, good comfort food.
Most memorable meal?
I have to say when I invited my friend Kevin and his wife Stephanie. Kevin used to work for me as a sous chef. It was a snowy night and I roasted and braised a duck with red cabbage. We had homemade pierogies that my partner Barry had made with sour cream—it was a pierogi from the Frugal Gourmet. It was a great night to be with friends, it was snowing outside, we had a great bottle of red wine with it—I think I can still taste it today.
Most memorable dinner guest?
It has to be my friend Mark Miskiewicz who is a caterer from California. He is another Culinary School graduate. We worked together at Brookside Country Club in Pottstown, he was one of my assistant chefs. He has a passion for food like I do and we both cook for each other. We've shared many, many, wonderful meals together. The conversation, the food, we're always showing each other something new which we've done.
We've probably shared about four incredible meals like that together. He is a great guy—very knowledgeable, very grounded, and he doesn't have the ego that a lot of chefs seem to have. We're into sharing. We like to help each other, show each other what we've learned, and benefit from the experience.
Most irritating celebrity chef?
Well there's two --Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse. They tie for first with me. Bobby Flay, if you take him off a grill he doesn't know what he's doing. All I have to say about Emeril Lagasse is I prefer my hot dogs grilled. My favorite TV chef is Mario Batali he shows you how to cook. It's 100%. He tells you how and why and where. He's showing you and telling you the method of how it's done in that area. He speaks from experience. To me, it's the gospel. Much as Lidia Bastianich does the same thing.
What makes indie food better?
First of all, we're a business that caters to our customers. We take so much pride in our service, our food, and our atmosphere. My whole life is in this restaurant. Everything I own is in this place. When we first opened, every piece of art hanging on the wall belonged to me. Fortunately, we've grown and added things to it but, when you're eating in my restaurant, it's an expression of me, just like any other person or any chef. We're living our dream; this is always what we wanted to do—to own and operate our own business. You are getting to sample some of that, just like any other independent restaurant.
Chefs own and run the best restaurants and you're experiencing their tastes and their visions of what they want their food to be and the experience they want their customers to have. My gardens, flowers, herbs, tomatoes... we're growing our own heirloom tomatoes that we are using throughout the summer season. The herbs come right from the garden --even flowers that we cut from the garden come into the restaurant. It's a personal thing when you eat in a restaurant like mine. It's about me and what I do. My passion is food and the presentation and look of my restaurant is what I want my customers to see.