Growing up in Milwaukee, Jason Brzozowy could often be found cooking breakfast for his family or attempting to make the latest recipe that he found around the house. But it wasn’t until after the University of Wisconsin, (the other UW) didn’t take, that Brzozowy dropped out, got a job as a cook, and rediscovered his love for the kitchen. His chef saw promise and told him, “If you want to do this seriously, you have got to school and get out of Milwaukee.” And so he did.
After completing Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago, a trip to Europe, and a reflection on the harsh Midwest winters, Brzozowy decided it was time for a move to a warmer, West Coast climate. L.A. was not his scene, San Fran was too pricey, and Seattle fit just right. A 44-hour train ride later, Brzozowy settled in for a year at at now-shuttered Qube (which employed many other Seattle notables ), before moving on to Tilth with Iron Chef victor and James Beard–winner Maria Hines.
Becoming the restaurant’s chef de cuisine in 2010 helped Brzozowy push himself creatively. Like his mentor, Brzozowy likes to keep Northwest ingredients front and center, and he says maintain, “an element of surprise, so that it [food] is not quite as it seems.”
The only place he still yearns for in the Midwest? A hot dog joint called Hot Doug’s, which sports a thick duck sausage with foie gras butter, and duck fat–fried waffle fries. Maybe he can somehow sneak a Northwest version of that one onto the menu.
Here, a few questions for Jason Brzozowy.
If you were to open your own restaurant today, what would it serve?
I really enjoy the tasting menu experience. The idea of being in the chef’s hands is comforting to me. I’d like a small space that offers a couple different tasting menu options that change daily. Otherwise, I’d love to open a restaurant featuring wood-fired pizza and cheap beer.
Name your favorite dish at Tilth.
I have a favorite for each season. Currently it’s the sablefish with potato pavé.
What’s great about being chef de cuisine?
Freedom of creativity. Having the ability to influence the cuisine of the restaurant and the growth of our cooks. Creatively, I’ve been able to develop my own style of cooking that just naturally fit within Maria’s philosophy about food. She’s given me the opportunity to develop menus since my first day as chef de cuisine.
Do you have a go-to cookbook for inspiration?
The French Laundry Cookbook has been the most inspirational. My first chef told me to read The Soul of a Chef by Michael Rulhman. That is where I learned about Thomas Keller and The French Laundry. Besides his obvious respect for food, his pursuit of perfection is what really inspired me.
If you had to choose one restaurant for the rest of your days which would it be?
I’ve had incredible meals at Bisato. I always leave inspired, with a smile on my face.
Describe a difficult task you were faced with as chef de cuisine.
After prepping and packing for an event in Los Angeles, we got an email while at the airport informing us that the event had gone from 600 to 900 people. By the time we landed in L.A. it was up to 1200 people regarding the event, there wasn’t a lot that we could do once we found out. We were on vacation at that point. And panicking is never an option. We modified the dish slightly to yield more portions and just tried to enjoy our time in Los Angeles.