Behind the Scenes: Chef Eric Bell’s Seasonal & Globally-Infused Inspirations
Standing Stone Brewing Co.’s chef, Eric Bell, is busy in the kitchen year round with seasonally inspired dishes to please our customers. We asked him a few questions about seasonal cooking and where he finds his inspiration for our tasty specials.
What seasonal ingredients can we expect to see coming soon on the specials board?
Now is the time when oysters and mussels are really nice. We are also seeing local jerusalem artichokes (also called sunchokes), shallots and root vegetables. Occasionally, we’ll feature nettles from Northern California that we use on our Nettle, Goat Cheese and Italian Sausage pizza. On the flip side, the weather has been really hard on limes and grapes.
Any tips for people cooking at home in the winter?
For home cooking, I suggest using the oven often. In the winter, it’s nice to heat up the kitchen and house with something slow. I’ve got my oven filled with high temp bricks which I preheat for a while. Then, I have a thermal mass that can create a great crust on whatever I put in there. To offset the extra energy I use, I’ll cook several meals at once and I’ll do at least one soup at the same time, too. The soup I freeze in small containers to try to keep my wife, Sophie (she’s pregnant), well fed.
Some recipes of mine I learned from my Chinese and Vietnamese grandmothers. When I was learning Pho I would take a bowl to be analyzed, and for the first month every bowl was handed back to me with a “No”. It was rough. Little by little I learned until finally the bowl was not given back until the next day, clean and empty.
Often in Italy, kitchen workers are young and do not know as much as the community grandmothers. Usually, it is a matriarch guiding the others. Many people cook to make money, and there is plenty of “tourist” food all over Italy. But, there are also those who will never compromise tradition because their interests lie in beauty, living a full life and maintaining quality. It is those people, that I search out.
When I wanted to learn about Thai food, I studied history, tradition and recipes, but I also attribute my knowledge to Thai friends like Wilat and Pom (owner and chef of Sawadee), and my favorite Chinese Realtor, Mony Ty. It was Mony who told me about the Barranco from Monterosso, and the “Insalata di Frutty di Mare” in Cinque Terre.
Vicente Cardenes taught me Chili Verde, but Vicente’s wife, Susanna, makes one of the best Moles I’ve ever had. A dishwasher in SLC taught me carnitas. There is no chef who makes better carnitas than Ricardo. He learned from his grandfather.
In each case, I tried to learn from artists who value what they do. I like to cook from scratch, using the best and healthiest local ingredients I can find.
Thanks Eric! We love the dishes Chef Bell brings to SSBC and hope you come in soon to enjoy them as well!