Louisville Magazine

AUG 2015

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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108 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 8.15 Bouillabaisse with rouille took a $1,500 pay cut to cook with fresh ingredients, to break down whole pigs and things like that." A big part of his current job is teaching and mentoring the next generation. Moran is half Asian, raised by a single Korean mother, and he grew up learning from her that it doesn't matter if you are the best; you just do the best. "It's more than just cooking," he says. "If you're gonna take the time to mop the foor" — which he does six days a week at Seviche — "mop the foor the right way. "I am a perfect example of not needing to go to culinary school," Moran says, "but I wanted to get my foundation right and really get in-depth with why I've been doing this for so many years the way I've been doing it." Moran tells me about a recent audition he had for a major reality-TV cooking show. He and three other contestants met with the show's producers, one of whom, looking at their resumes, said, "CIA, Le Cordon Bleu, Johnson & Wales — oh, this is the cream of the crop!" "Tey named of three of the top four culinary schools in the country. Tey didn't say Sullivan — I'm kinda getting worked up just thinking about it now. Tat right there got my blood going," Moran says. "I felt like she disrespected my school." Te producer went down the line of contestants and let them introduce themselves. Last in line, Moran caught everyone's attention when he said, "I'm James Moran, chef de cuisine at Seviche, a Latin restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky, and I am proud to say that I'm a Sullivan graduate." He says he made it further than the other competitors in the room. If the aspiration of the restaurant-minded culinary student is to be a chef-owner, Sullivan grad Bobby Benjamin is reaching the pinnacle. Te Tennessee native who headed the now-closed La Coop in NuLu is opening his own place in September in the former Blind Pig/Meat location, which he will call Butchertown Grocery. When I visit him there in mid-June, the place is stripped down to dusty beams and insulation, which bounce around the sounds of drills and hammers. "Here on this side you will have a 12-burner from France — six-range in the front and six fat in the back so you can do a true saucier technique," Benjamin says, his voice echoing in the empty space. "Over here we have another kitchen for cheese and charcuterie. We'll be making our own pastas — gnocchi, all that stuf — with a pasta machine from Italy." Te concept is a modern take on Old World European techniques. Benjamin, 35, started working in kitchens when he was 12, and by 22 he'd followed the advice of some of the chefs he worked under and got his culinary degree. "My thing is, if I can work in Nashville, New York and Chicago, go to Sullivan University and still learn while I'm there, that's a big deal," he says. Ten years later, he's opening up his frst restaurant. He says that accomplished chefs who lack formal education are exceedingly rare. Sullivan taught him the history of the profession, hygiene and overall professionalism. "We are putting food in people's mouths. I think my job is as important as a doctor. A doctor has to open somebody up to do surgery. . . ." Benjamin's chef de cuisine, Jake Stearns, has a smirk on his face that breaks his boss' seriousness. "I think what he's trying to say is that we touch food — with our hands, our bare hands — that you're going to put in your body. We take that seriously; a lot of chefs do not that that seriously," says Stearns, who went to culinary school at JCTC and met Benjamin when the two worked at the Oakroom in the Seelbach. Stearns interviewed two Sullivan students for positions at Butchertown Grocery and says that one student stood out because she would show up before the chefs and stay after they left. "It takes a lot of fnesse and ambition," Benjamin says. "Not everybody wants to open up a restaurant like this. Some people want to open up a hot dog stand. Fine. Open up the best hot dog stand you can." On the Wednesday of the spring-quarter's practical — this time a fnal exam — the Winston's dining room tables are covered with plastic bags full of diferent foods labeled by number. It's so quiet, you could hear a piece of lettuce hit the foor. Students hover over the tables, with stapled multiple-choice tests in hand. Tey're trying to fgure out if the leafy green in bag number nine is cilantro or its look-alike, parsley. Tey're deciding if number 43 is prosciutto or pancetta. Is 39 a habanero, jalapeño, ghost or serrano pepper? Students take this product identifcation exam twice every quarter. Akmon says that the average score for entering students is about 35 percent. By the time they leave, it's about 87 percent. During another exam down the hall, while students are "I am a perfect example of not needing to go to culinary school, but I wanted to get my foun- dation right and really get in-depth with why I've been doing this for so many years the way I've been doing it." — Sullivan grad James Moran

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