Interviewed June 2011
Francis Brennan is the head chef at L20, one of two restaurants granted three stars by Michelin in their inaugural Chicago edition.
Q – How long have you been cooking professionally?
I started cooking in 1995 a micro brewery in Santa Barbara, CA to pay my way through university. But it wasn't until 1998, during my stage at Patrick Guilbaud in Dublin, that I really understood how much I loved cooking.
Q – Where did you train to cook?
I learned by working in various restaurants in Europe and the States. Keeping my eyes and ears open and reading about cooking as much as possible.
Q – How would you describe your style of cooking?
It's a combination of product driven and technique driven cuisine. I start with the best products available at any given time and then apply the perfect technique to coax the most out each product. The results are luxurious, satisfying, rooted in tradition with a modern sensibility.
Q – Is there a secret for a successful restaurant?
Cook great food and pamper your guests, it's simple.
Q – Do you have a “signature dish” or favourite dish you enjoy cooking?
My "signature" at L2O is the bread. We bake 7 different breads everyday for our service. Baking is absolutely the most satisfying thing I do everyday. I love how happy we make our guests with the simple combination of flour, water, and sea salt.
Q – Do you have a favourite ingredient?
It changes weekly. But right now it's Mojama, the dried tuna from Spain. It's great with everything, cepes, foie gras, hamachi, you name it. Mojama brings a blast of salty umami to any dish.
Which restaurant do you most enjoy eating at on your night off?
I can't get enough Mexican food. So whichever taqueria is closest, usually La Pasadita.
What is your most interesting or fun experience from your time in restaurants?
At the Fifth Floor, in San Francisco, we had a power outage with a full dining room. We could have closed, but we lit some candles instead and kept cooking. We were basically cooking in the dark, It was a testament to muscle memory and our ability to cook by sound. Opening some complimentary wine for our guests helped too!
What would be your “last request” dish?
I would have to go heavy.....pig's trotter a la Pierre Koffman
Is there another chef that you most admire?
There are many
Any advice you would give to someone wanting to become a chef?
Work in the best restaurants you can find and don't move on until you have learned everything you can. Watch and listen, you can absorb so much just by being in the same space as great cooks.
Any final thoughts you’d like to add?