Chef Aaron Braun’s culinary interest began in his Mother’s kitchen in Kettering, but was probably inherited from his Grandfather, who immigrated and opened a small restaurant in Dayton. Appreciation for good food and gatherings around the family dinner table inspired Aaron to seek employment in local restaurants at an early age, and later to obtain Culinary and Business Degrees from Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio.
He further broadened his cooking horizons on Put-in-Bay and then moved on to San Diego. In California, Aaron promptly found employment at Silvergate Yacht Club, and then a 44-acre, private island resort; Paradise Point. It was at this luxury resort that he was able to really grow, eventually becoming the Chef of their fine dining establishment. After getting married and traveling across the country, Aaron’s dedication to family and devotion to his hometown have brought him back to Dayton, where he has had the privilege of working for Wiley, as Meadowlark’s Sous Chef, for the past four years.
Aaron will be competing in the 2nd Annual Chef Showdown at the Dayton Home and Garden Show on Sat, March 18th in the first round at 11am. This Chopped inspired competition features 9 local Chefs challenged to prepare an appetizer from a mystery basket of ingredients in 20 minutes. One chef from each of the 3 preliminary rounds moves on to the finals Sunday at 1pm where they’ll create an entree in 30 minutes. Winner gets $500 and bragging rights for the year!
Before the big competition we asked Aaron to take on our 10 question interview:
What is your favorite ingredient to cook with?
Eggs, they are so versatile and delicious, a key ingredient in some of my favorite things: fresh pasta dough, custards, cakes, breaded anything and of course on their own, in a breakfast burrito or a fried egg sandwich.
Artichokes, I worked at a place that had a tuna dish that required two 20lb. cases of artichokes a week. By the time you get done peeling and trimming them there isn’t much yield and inevitably you end up with a thousand little cuts all over your hands.
What’s your favorite dish to make?
Hungarian greasy bread, so bear with me here, you take a good rye bread (I always use DLM) and slice it thick. Take jaw bacon and make deep cross cuts into the fat and skewer it. Chop up yellow onion, green pepper and the best tomato from the garden, and get some Hungarian paprika. Now you’ll need a fire in the backyard, (on what will be the hottest day of the year). Take your bread put the peppers, onion and tomato on the the slice of rye bread (we usually build a few of them and set them on plates around the fire). Next hold the skewered jaw bacon above the fire and wait. Once the fat starts slowly rendering, drip it on your sandwich, shake a fair amount of paprika on and enjoy. Best served surrounded by family telling stories.
Anything that requires building a fire in the backyard and inviting the whole family over is good with me.
What’s your favorite pig out food?
Italian Hoagie: crisp-on-the-outside soft-in-the-middle bread, best quality Italian cold cuts and provolone, shredded lettuce, thin sliced tomatoes and onion, topped with spicy cherry peppers, sprinkled with oregano and doused in vinegar and oil.
What restaurant, other than your own do you like to dine at in the Miami Valley?
Kabuki, we split a DoLsot Bimbob for an appetizer; rice, beef, veggies and a sunny side up egg. They serve it with a Korean spicy sauce that is amazing. The dish is served in a hot stone bowl, as it sits the rice on the bottom becomes crispy- so good. Then we have our favorite house sushi rolls- great food and service.
Mise en place, okay deep breath, it’s a French culinary term meaning everything “in its place”. So before you start cooking, measure out your ingredients, chop your vegetables and herbs, open your cans, get your pots and skillets out. Once you have everything out and measured, it will make for less stressful cooking.
If you could invite any 4 guests to a dinner party who would they be and why?
Phil Lesh, Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia, I’ve been inspired for decades by their creativity, improvisation and the ability to consistently blow their audiences’ minds. The last person would be my wife Candice, because if I was hanging out with the boys and cooking and didn’t invite her there would be many quiet mornings around the coffee pot.
Who do you look up to in the industry and why?
Wiley, the owner of Meadowlark, I have had the pleasure of working for Wiley for a few years now. She has inspired me with her generosity and love for food and people. The wealth of culinary experiences she brings to the table inspires me to continue to seek out my own and share them through cooking. I don’t know if I will ever be able to repay her for everything she has taught me. Thank You!
Starting the day off at the thrift store, we stop back at the house to pick up our dog Pancho and drive through Tudor’s Biscuit World (in Xenia). We head over to Scout Dog Park for a few hours of live entertainment. Then we go back to the house to garden for a bit and enjoy sunset around the pool and grill with friends and family.
Share a kitchen disaster, lucky break or other interesting story:
I had just moved to San Diego, I was working in a fine dining restaurant on a 44-acre island. I had been roped into joining the Safety Committee for the resort; attending weekly meetings, inspections of other departments and this kind of fun stuff. Anyway, we had just finished an Easter brunch, we had a few tables finishing up, the general manager had asked me to go out and talk to a table that was from Ohio (so being a proud Ohio guy I obliged). Within a matter of a minute or two the restaurant was shaking, chandelier swaying, glassware tinging, and panic noise coming from the kitchen. My thought process was- What is happening? Earthquake! Being from Ohio, I had never been in an earthquake nor had the guest I was talking with. I remembered from a safety meeting the location to take everyone in case of an emergency, calmly got the guests up from the tables, started to lead them to the safety point and sent a bus boy back to get my kitchen staff. Before the ground had stopped shaking we had everyone out of the building and I had my (future) wife on the phone to make sure she was alright. She said that it must have been a big one, her Mom on the other line had felt it in Arizona! That was my first earthquake, safety pays, no injuries reported.