Chef Eric Brownlee: Exploring Sustainable Culinary Artistry at Kimpton The Forum Hotel

Saddleback Pork Chops by Chef Brownlee

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As I settled in for my latest culinary adventure, the "Chef AF" podcast with the incomparable Chef Eric Brownlee of Kimpton The Forum Hotel was my guide. It wasn't just another interview—it was a journey through the taste-laden pathways of Charlottesville, Virginia, led by a chef whose roots in sustainable cooking run as deep as the soil on his grandfather's cattle farm.

Raised with the earthy aroma of Pennsylvania farmlands, Chef Eric's culinary narrative began amidst the beef cattle of his childhood, instilling in him an ethos of sustainability long before it was a culinary catchphrase. Over 15 years ago, a pivotal moment came with Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma," deeply engraving his commitment to ethical sourcing.

At Birch & Bloom, the heartbeat of the hotel's dining experience, Chef Eric's menus dance to the rhythm of the seasons. "It's not just about crafting a menu," Eric shared, "it's a dedication to the narrative of every ingredient." His collaboration with local growers and butchers ensures that each dish sings with the freshest, most genuine flavors of the region. And when the climate throws a curveball? He adapts with a creativity as vibrant as the changing seasons—like pickling summer peaches to capture their essence.

In the hustle of The Good Sport, Eric's playfulness spills into each dish. The menu is a homage to classic comforts with a twist—think Nashville Hot Oysters or Wagyu Brisket Sliders that harmonize with the local craft beer selection. "Here, we strip back the pretension without stripping the flavor," he says.

What resonates most about Chef Eric is his unwavering connection to the land and his inventive spirit, nurtured during his time at Johnson & Wales in Charleston. Whether it’s a health-forward, vegetable-driven plate at Birch & Bloom or a casual, yet intentional bite at The Good Sport, Eric’s culinary vision is a testament to his philosophy: food should echo the environment it comes from and the moment it's enjoyed.

His vision for the future is as fresh as his ingredients. Imagine a pop-up farmers market set amidst the hotel’s sprawling arboretum, where guests can interact with the very farmers who nurture the produce, accompanied by live cooking stations. "It's about creating a full-circle experience for our guests," Chef Eric explains, eager to bridge the gap between farm and fork.

So, whether you're a food enthusiast or a culinary novice, Chef Eric Brownlee's philosophy is a reminder of the beauty in every bite. His journey—one of continuous evolution—invites us to ponder, what will be on the plate tomorrow? Only the seasons, the land, and the chef's ever-evolving creativity will tell. Stay tuned, Charlottesville; the best, it seems, is yet to come.

Saddleback Pork Chops with Cilantro Chimichurri

Saddleback Pork Chops with Cilantro Chimichurri

Chimichurri

Ingredients:

  • 4ea. Shallots, minced

  • 4ea Jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced

  • 16ea. Garlic Cloves, minced

  • 4 tsp Kosher Salt

  • 2 Cups Cilantro, minced

  • 1 Cup Parsley, minced

  • 8 TB Oregano, minced

  • 2 Cups Red Wine Vinegar

  • 3 Cups EVOO

M.O.P.:

  1. Combine shallots, jalapenos, garlic and salt in food processor.  Pulse until combined.

  2. Add Cilantro, Parsley and Oregano – adding a little at a time and scraping the sides of bowl intermittently. 

  3. While running, slowly stream in the vinegar and then the olive oil.

  4. Season to taste.

Pork Chops

  • 4ea Saddleback Pork Chops (approx.. 18oz)

  • Kosher Salt 

  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper

  • Aleppo Pepper

M.O.P.:

  1. Season Pork Chops with salt and pepper

  2. Grill over high heat on both sides

  3. Cover grill or Place in preheated (450°F) oven on baking sheet until internal temperature reaches 125° F.  Remove from heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

  4. Sprinkle with Aleppo pepper and serve with Chimichurri sauce

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Lisa Pepe