Chef Brian Renz has been a member of the Taher Chef Council for some time and has traveled near and far with them bringing recipes and culture back to Taher’s school and business clients. In this Chef Spotlight, he goes into detail about where he gets inspiration and his love of grilling.
What got you into cooking?
To be honest, I went into the kitchen, I tried it and I liked it. It was really nice to get words of encouragement from family and friends about a dish you made.
What’s one thing you like to teach a student, apprentice, or new chef?
I love teaching students omelets! It’s easier than they think and they like the pan flip. Older students, I like to teach knife skills and the proper way to cut. With new chefs, I want to see them sautée and stir fry. Do they use the quick way or the correct way? I want to see them make a burger too. Do they use the right meat to fat ratio, do they use a flashy technique but results in a dry burger? Those are teachable moments.
What is your favorite part about interacting with students?
I like teaching little stuff especially stuff we picked up from the Council trip. Not in a huge setting but in talking to the kids. When I’m in a school, it’s usually at one station making something so when they come over they are genuinely interested in what I’m doing and what I’m cooking. It’s energizing for me and they really like it!
What is one of your favorite dishes to make?
I love to grill! It can be twenty below zero and I’ll be out there and grilling. I prefer charcoal when it’s that cold out for grilling though! I like to incorporate grilling as much as I can. Even for Italian food, I like grilling the chicken before I put it into the dish. If I can grill the vegetables, great, it just adds another layer to an already amazing dish.
What are some of your favorite recipes to make in schools?
Dishes from a place we went to as the Chef Council. It’s really nice to see if the kids like it, which they usually do! Kids like experiencing new and different things as long as you make it approachable. A dish I particularly liked was one that I picked up in Milan. It was Fusilli pasta with arugula and pine nuts. Absolutely delicious.
What’s one dish that you always have the ingredients for?
Stir-Fry! I always have chicken, vegetables and some sort of sauce. I like doing that if I’m short on time. If I have time to fire up the grill, I’ll do that.
Any memorable stories from your travels to schools, businesses, or on Council trips?
Oh definitely! It’s nice hearing about different cooking rivalries. People in Northern Italy think people in Southern Italy can’t cook while in the south, it’s the reverse. It’s like here. Up here we put BBQ sauce on our ribs while in Texas, it’s a dry rub. Doing it the other way just seems weird to both people! Another time I was making Chicken Biryani for one of the schools. A teacher from India said, “You must have learned to make that in Northern India! We do it way better in New Delhi!” It was really nice to share the story of the trip with her.
One of the best travel memories I have is when I went to Thailand. I’m a classically trained French/ Western Hemisphere style chef. It was the first time being exposed to lemongrass and coconut milk in market food. I really enjoyed watching them fish, catch what they were going to cook for the day and put it in a tank and wait for customers.
There was once in Chang Mai, Chef Matt, a few others, and I stayed behind and took a cooking class. We spent the whole day learning to make authentic Thai food. It was an amazing eye opening experience learning.
Check out some photos of Chef Brian and his handiwork below!