While we have a huge team and a number of players, each with their own unique specializations and skill sets, without the tireless work of our chefs, we wouldn’t have any of you coming through our doors. They truly are our music makers — our dreamers of dreams.
Today, you’ll get to know Brent. If you’ve ever enjoyed anything we’ve served to you (and if you’re reading this, there’s a fairly good chance that you have), this man surely research, tested, and toyed with it until it became your lunch (or dinner).
Where did you grow up? How has your background influenced your cooking?
I grew up outside of Sydney, Australia. Being on the coast I always enjoyed fresh seafood and had access to that when I was young. Seafood is something I always lean toward cooking.
Sydney is super diverse, culturally, so from a young age I had access to really good southeast Asian food and Mediterranean food – Lebanese, Turkish, etc.
My Granddad and Nana owned a hotel and gas station and had restaurants in both. I grew up loving Australian diner food – fish and chips, burgers, that sort of stuff. Granddad was always cooking at home so I was always around that.
What’s your educational background?
Got business degree in Sydney but decided to branch out. Moved to Louisville, Kentucky and attended Sullivan University; it’s a well known cooking school in the region. I started working in business, but then taking cooking classes at night at Sullivan. Soon thereafter, I started cooking professionally in Louisville while still going to cooking school. Working in business and accounting, going to cooking school, and working in a restaurant as a cook all at the same time! It was quite the juggling act.
When did you begin working for VERTS? What interested you in becoming a part of the VERTS family?
September 2016! I had tried VERTS catering and liked it a lot. Ended up coming back for lunch a few times, knew I loved the food. Saw the position posted and sounded like a really interesting job, being able to influence food that reaches a lot of people. And I love Mediterranean food! So I felt like a good fit for all those reasons. The founders are energetic and have very ambitious plans — and those are good types of people to be around.
Best memory at VERTS so far?
Being at the grand opening of Boston, our first store in the East Coast, experiencing the massive lines, feeling the excitement. It was a very cool time to be around VERTS.
How do you find inspiration for new dishes in the Test Kitchen?
I’m obsessed with cookbooks. And restaurants in general! I’m always eating out, trying new dishes, seeing what’s going on in the rest of the food world. Looking around farmers markets, grocery stores, any new produce available, how I could work with it. And I make sure I cook stuff I would want to eat myself!
What’s it like to work in our Test Kitchen?
It’s a really neat set-up. I get to test the recipes first, I get to train staff members to make dishes the way I want them made, and we get to test it on our guests and get their feedback straight away. We also make sure our team is comfortable making the recipes and see how it sells in advance, and we might make some tweaks before we roll it out to all the restaurants. Cool setup — I can see it coming to fruition as something we use at all restaurants.
What are some of your favorite things on the VERTS menu?
Our chicken – seasoned really well, tender, juicy, differentiates us from a lot of competitors that don’t cook traditional vertical, they cook on flat-tops or grills. It’s worth the time.
I love our pita – it took a long time to develop and I love that with chicken and the spicy cilantro sauce – my favorite sauce. Spicy with a lot of fresh herbs and jalapenos and all that good stuff.
When you’re not cooking how do you like to spend your time?
My wife and I just had our first child, a little boy, he’s only 10 weeks old right now so in my off-time I’m being a Dad! I love taking him on adventures, show him the world, all that good stuff.
I also love to travel, and want to go back to Australia. Every time I do Australia, I try to take a cool new long layover… Stopping in Southeast Asia or India usually works out perfectly.
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