When Chef Bradley Ogden was in town last month promoting his newest branch of Lark Creek (and his holiday cookbook), I got to spend a few minutes
interrogating engaging him with a lightning round of On the Line. Despite the brevity, I left with the answers below. Bon appetit!
How were Native American foods an early influence in your cooking? Growing up in Michigan, there is a large mid-western, Native American influence. Hunting and fishing as a child, and ice fishing in Grand Traverse Bay greatly influenced my palate without me even knowing. In addition, spending time on my grandmother's farm, enjoying fresh rhubarb pie and fresh picked tomatoes from the vine showed me how to keep it natural and simple with produce native to the area.
Tell us about your new holiday dinners cookbook. Having a holiday cookbook was something that I wanted to do for a long time. I took some classic recipes I perfected over the years and updated them. We also created completely new items specifically for the cookbook. I wanted to do seven holidays to start, but the publisher said, "Let's concentrate on the winter holidays." Thanksgiving and Christmas are my favorite holidays, so I agreed.
The cookbook was inspired by my cooking in restaurants on holidays for the last three decades, and a lot of people coming in and enjoying holiday dinners with me. I am a traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving and Christmas; the idea is cherishing the special time in our lives with family and friends, and bringing everyone together around the dinner table.
You're making breakfast; what are you having? For an everyday breakfast, I would probably do organic, fresh squeezed orange juice, black coffee and steamed, old-fashioned oats with organic oatmeal, sliced banana, maple sugar and a side of yogurt.
When it is a special breakfast, I would make tangerine souffle pancakes with my citrus compote, topped with maple syrup.
What made you decide to take nutrition classes at Vassar? Well, I cooked on a farm for a couple of years prior to going to culinary school. While there, I cooked all organic food by age 18. My mom was a big influence; she got me thinking about brown rice and the whole natural, organic food craze back then. I was interested in making food that captured more flavor, and learned that balancing amino acids in food was a very important step in creating the best food possible.
Favorite meal growing up: It is between my mom's pot roast and fried chicken. During the week, it was a one-pot show to feed all seven kids. But on Sundays, it was a family affair, and my mom would make a special meal.
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What was growing up with six siblings like? With two or three kids growing up in one room, there was always fighting for independence and individuality. Having a big family was a lot of fun. We didn't have much, but we always valued the little things (and still do). Lasting thing you researched online: Looking up existing organic food programs at schools as research for an organic school cooking project I am working on here in Orange County.
Do you have any skills that are non-food related? I can't tell you all of them . . haha. I am the best kitchen partner, because I also clean as I go. I also love to play golf, if I have time.
Hardest lesson you've learned: Tough question! I always said it, but never really learned it until later. Always value where you came from and who got you there. We sometimes forget this along the way, but it is really important to remember your roots and where you come from.