Maria Hines has a policy at her restaurants: You don't bother someone on a day off. No matter what. So when Brian Payne saw his phone ring on his day off from cooking at Agrodolce, he knew something was up. There was also the small matter of him being three sheets to the wind. (Hey, it was 7pm on the man's day off—what do you expect?)
It was Hines lieutenant Jason Brzozowy, saying that Tilth's chef de cuisine had put in his notice, and would Payne be interested in taking over the kitchen at Hines's vaunted first restaurant? You know, the one that made her a James Beard winner in 2009.
You don't have to be 100 percent lucid to say yes to an opportunity like that. Since April, Payne has been the man who combines his ideas with those of Hines and Brzozowy, interpreting and presenting Tilth's seaesonal offerings in his own way. If he found a way to sneak some hum bao on there, we wouldn't complain.
Here, a few of Brian Payne's favorite things:
Favorite place to eat and drink on my day off: Pazzo's on Eastlake.
Favorite dish to make at home: Hum bao.
Biggest restaurant pet peeve: Dirty cooks—cooks that are a whirlwind of messiness.
Best part of your job: Instant gratification—the look on a guest's face when they taste something extraordinary.
On the wish list: A/C.
Can't live without: My 5-and-a-half-inch Blazen utility knife.
People you would like to cook with: Julia Child, Heston Blumenthal, Jaque Pepin
If you weren't a chef, you would be: A teacher.
Favorite ingredient to work with: Butter.
Favorite item on Tilth's menu: Loki sockye salmon, white corn, tomatoes and basil pesto.
Craziest work story: I was working the grill station at an undisclosed restaurant on a busy night and the gas line on the grill caught fire. At one point I looked up and the whole wall behind the grill was on fire. I ran to the fire extinguisher and proceded to douse the grill. The problem was there was an arching wire that kept lighting the gas on fire after we would put it out. I emptied the fire extinguisher so I had to run across the street to get another one. Meanwhile the fire department shows up while I'm running through the dining room fire extinguisher in hand. All the while tickets are still rolling in. The fire department stormed in and saved the day. The building was evacuated and the gas was eventually shut off.
Dinner is: SERVED.