I continue my R&D for next month’s Fresh Toast brunch event by learning more about Chef Craig Brady. As Chef de Cuisine of Haven Gastropub, he executes one of the best menus in Old Towne Orange. Get to know this chipper fellow below.
You’re making breakfast; what are you having?
A liter of coffee.
You’ve worked in corporate and resort kitchens. How do they differ from a privately owned establishment like Haven?
At a restaurant like Haven, there’s much more fluidity and freedom when it comes to sourcing and quality of ingredients. It’s not all about buying from the lowest bidder.
Most undervalued ingredient:
I hate to be cliche, but salt. Not in an obligatory, just-add-more-to-everything way, but in the sense of how and when to use it. And, of course, the quality of the salt that you are using.
What do you recommend for first-timers, and what are your best-sellers?
We are getting impeccably fresh seafood several times a week, so I recommend any of our dishes or specials containing it. Fish is so versatile, and can adapt to so many styles of cooking, and we do our best to showcase a variety in our food.
Do you have a preferred beverage? And if it’s a beer, a particular style or brewery?
Being at Haven for so long, I have acquired quite the connoisseur’s palate when it comes to beer. But after a long, hard day at work, nothing is better than settling into a nice, high ABV bourbon barel-aged stout from a respected brewery.
Are there any special events on the calendar (besides Fresh Toast)?
We have beer dinners once a month at the restaurant. They’re a great opportunity to highlight a local brewery, and for all the chefs on our culinary team to stretch our legs and show off a bit.
What is your guilty pleasure food?
CHIPS! I steadily have three to five options at home. The stranger the better. Wasabi ginger and Sriracha were some of my favorites recently.
Your VPN experience in Boston was shortly before joining Haven. Are there lessons learned from Posto that you carry into your current kitchen?
Oh, absolutely! I opened Posto with chef and owner Joe Cassinelli. He showed me not only how to be a chef, but how to be an owner. And I apply that way of thinking every day.
One stereotype about your industry, and whether it’s true.
The long hours. This job requires intense focus and a level of work ethic that, if built upon a weak foundation, will crush any aspiring cook. You have to have the passion and foresight to see the reward that results from the time investment, and above all, to love what you do. I can be at work for 15 hours, come home and still be excited about food— and stay up till 1 a.m. reading cookbooks or watching chef videos.
Most important quality you look for in a sous chef.
Drive. I’d much rather tell my sous chef to chill out than to ask them to pick up the pace, or to run specials. They need to want that for themselves.
What would be your last meal on Earth?
A simple housemade bucatini pasta with fresh tomato sauce and a bottle of Amarone enjoyed with my wife and daughter.