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Industry Profile:
Joshua Rodgers of Smyth

BY JEANETTE HURT
PHOTO BY DAVID SZYMANSKI

Jan. 2018

Chef Joshua Rodgers grew up in Santa Rosa, Calif., then lived in Utah and Seattle before high school in Florida. Hes been a chef in kitchens around the globe, working in Florida, San Francisco, New York City, Nantucket, Montana and Shanghai. Since he took over the kitchens at Smyth and the Iron Horse Hotel in May of 2016, hes enjoyed working with Wisconsin ingredients. He sat down with M Magazine to talk about cooking, making baby food for his young son, and more.

Tell us about your culinary philosophy at Smyth.

Smyth, really what it is, is that its very locally centric a local restaurant for local residents in the city. Its not your typical hotel restaurant. With Smyth, we have a lot of local (regulars), and its very important we have a footprint in the city. Except for the bread, which comes from Rocket Baby (Bakery), and the ice cream, which comes from Purple Door (Ice Cream), everything is made in-house. My viewpoint is (that) simple food is not easy to do. To do it well, it takes a lot of effort and patience.
 

How important are local ingredients to you?

We use a lot of local producers, like Big City Greens and Pampered Produce. What I really like about Wisconsin is that it reminds me a bit of being out in northern California with the abundance of produce that is here. We preserve whatever we can when it is in season.
 

How do things work in your kitchen?

Im a firm believer in my team. My executive sous (chef is) Alex Lyskowicz, (and) we work a lot on food together. We take an idea, and we talk about it, and then we put it on a plate four, five, six times before it comes together. We meet together as a team, all of the chefs and line cooks, and we develop a consensus about the dishes. Everyone takes pride in all of the dishes. Our chefs and cooks tend to be pretty excited about the food we make.
 

How do your dishes come together?

They dont magically appear we work together. The seafood charcuterie came about from a conversation Alex and I had. So, we took the (parts of a traditional charcuterie) plate, and we broke it down. Each dish we make has to be balanced with acid and fat to salt to umami, with different components of the dish all coming together. Some things take a lot of time, like the scallop dish. We roast those tomatoes for six hours.
 

Tell us about your family and cooking for them.

My wife, Qing, shes from Shanghai, and I have a 9-month-old named Elijah, and were expecting a new boy, Micha, in March. I cook for Elijah. Weve done squash, avocado, kiwi, beets, salmon, banana, apples. We take whole foods and make (baby food) from them. My wife loves ramen, wontons, spring rolls, and right now, whatever my wife is craving, I make, like ice cream for her. I also make pho at home.
 

Whats always in your pantry?

Theres salt six different salts. My guilty pleasure is a condiment called Spicy (Chili) Crisp from Shanghai. I find it at the Asian (International) Market. For me, its like ketchup. I always keep two in the cabinet.
 

What are your favorite kitchen tools?

My favorite tool is my chefs knife. I also love my plating spoons and one pair of tweezers. At home, I love my Vitamix and KitchenAid. The tweezers are important for microgreens or leeks. Everyone who works in Smyth has one. If you use your fingers to pick up a micro, it gets stuck on your fingers.
 

What are you looking forward to as the seasons change?

Were looking forward to blood oranges, Brussels sprouts, parsnips and celeriac, and hefty greens, like kale.



RECIPE CORNER:
Quinoa Granola from Chef Joshua Rodgers

Ingredients:

1 cup red scarlet quinoa
1 cup flax seeds
1 cup chia seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon  salt
cup grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
cup sunflower seeds
cup slivered almonds
cup 100 percent maple syrup
3 tablespoons brown sugar

Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients, then transfer to a baking pan lined with a silicone pad. Put in oven for about 12 minutes, until the sugars have dissolved and the granola starts to clump. Then, remove from oven, and mix with a spatula. Put back in oven for about 7 minutes longer, remove, and check for texture: If still very hard, put quinoa back in oven for another 5 minutes. Remove, and let cool. Break the granola apart once cooled, and store for later use. Makes about 3 cups.







 

This story ran in the Jan. 2018 issue of: