Interested in an overall experience, rather than just a meal? Visit Chef Brian Young at his restaurant Cultivar for a menu with a wide variety of dishes inspired by his New England roots and global passions, or visit him at Taste of Downtown Crossing as he will be demonstrating his knowledge of butchering and charcuterie.
You have an interesting niche being a Butcher, Charcutier, and CDC – can you explain what that means to you and how you found yourself here?
Years ago as a young sous chef, I found an old French charcuterie book laying around the restaurant where I was working and started reading it. I wanted to try what I thought I could accomplish, yet not much it turned out. I got more books, which lead to more learning. I tried harder and harder recipes and looked into the science behind what I was doing. Ultimately, my hobby became an obsession. After a few years of this, I realized that if I wanted to make real Italian salumi, I was going to need to learn to butcher my own animals, as Italian cuts of meat aren’t really available in America. I’m not just talking about cutting steaks or cleaning silver skin off a muscle. I really needed to know the anatomy of the animals I was using. So I got more books and did long hours of research, all in my spare time. All of this was happening as I was climbing the ladder up the chef “food chain” in Boston. CDC here, Executive Chef there…you get the idea. Before I knew it, I wasn’t just writing menus, I was giving butchering lessons to my staff, running flourishing dry aging programs, making the charcuterie and teaching others what I knew about salumi.
In short, teaching people about the craft of butchering and charcuterie has become a real goal of mine. I try to help my sous chefs and cooks understand what they’re using, where it comes from on the animal and in some cases the product’s journey from a purchased product to a plate.
What do you enjoy most about Cultivar?
We have a really creative and collaborative team at Cultivar. Our whole kitchen team from sous chefs to cooks is really involved with the dishes that Mary and I put on the menu. It really is a pleasure to work in a place like that, knowing that the food we put out is something that we all care about.
How would you describe Cultivar for those who haven’t been?
Food wise, at Cultivar, it’s really a culinary experience. We celebrate our New England roots, but also our passions about globally inspired cuisine. Our guests are likely to find everything from French techniques like our “Chicken for Two” which is a roulade served with glaceed local mushrooms, to heavily Italian inspired dishes like our “Squid Ink Messenesi” which is a play on an old-school Southern Italian classic: the “Fra Diavolo” which is a spicy seafood pasta.
What is your earliest food-related memory?
Easily my favorite food memories are eating big southern breakfasts at my Nana’s kitchen table in Georgia. She went all out: grits, bacon, sausage, biscuits and sawmill gravy, seared country ham steaks, cantaloupe and tomatoes from farms down the street and homemade coffeecakes. It taught me the importance of a feast and got me to be interested in what was going on the kitchen.
How has your taste evolved through the years?
When I moved back to New England in 2006 after years in Nashville, I had some distinctly southern tastes. It took me a while to come around to raw oysters and unfried seafood. I was a kid in New Hampshire but spent much of my youth in Nashville around barbecue and fried food. I immersed myself in the farm culture of New England and all of the available seafood we have in Boston. Now, I’m a die hard oyster-eater and my wife and I travel long distances to try seafood in many of New England’s famous eateries.
What are your favorite dishes / items to prepare (at work or at home) and why?
My favorite dish to prepare at home is a really well-roasted chicken, that is cooked low and slow with lots of butter and herbs crammed under the skin. I usually roast potatoes and veggies right in the dutch oven with it so they pick up all the flavor of the chicken. It‘s a crowd pleaser at a dinner party, and makes a great leftover meal for my wife and me.
What’s one ingredient that you can’t live without?
Those who know me know I can’t live without Calabrian chili flakes. They are so floral and fruit forward, with a really spicy kick. They’re kind of my secret ingredient. Shh…
What’s your favorite type of music to listen to when cooking?
I was a big punk rocker growing up, so I get super hyper when I listen to Black Flag or Bane, and I get a lot done really fast that way. If I’m at home cooking with friends, it’s a more relaxed environment, so I listen to Desmond Dekker, Toots and the Maytals.
If you could cook for anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
I have had the privilege of cooking for and with lots of famous people and famous chefs, so I’d have to say my Great Grandmother, ‘Nanny.’ She died while I was still in culinary school, so it was before I really knew anything about food. I’d love to have the chance to cook for the person who had so much to do with the food traditions in my family.
Do you know what you’re doing for your Taste of DTX demonstration? If so, can you please elaborate so we know what we’re looking forward to?
I’ll be butchering a pig.
Are you interested in experiencing Chef Brian Young’s craft firsthand? Join us at Taste of Downtown Crossing on Sunday, September 24th from 12-3 pm!
Taste of Downtown Crossing is a celebration of diverse food, culture and entertainment. The event is gated on Avenue de Lafayette; patrons may purchase tickets online prior to the event for $25/person or at the event for $30/person.