We had the pleasure of chatting with Jim Blevins, the executive chef of Butcher and the Brewer on East Fourth Street. He’s extremely down-to-earth, talented, passionate, and definitely knows his food. We’re truly grateful for the experience and he even had his staff bring out an absolutely GLORIOUS smoked bone marrow app to share! (pictured further down in this post)
Jim respects the culinary occupation and is proud of his work, but isn’t pretentious about it. He gets a lot of his ideas by taking something he’s tried and figuring out how to make it more “fat kid friendly.” While some foodies and chefs refuse to touch restaurant chains, he flat out told us, “I’ll touch THE SHIT out of McDonalds” and shortly after added Popeye’s and Skyline to the list. (He doesn’t like Chipotle though… We told him we’d try to see past that.)
FIRSTS, LASTS, AND FAVORITES
Last concert: Tool 2006
First CD purchased: Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
Favorite cooking styles: Southern American and Soul Food
Favorite beer on your current menu: The Repeater Kolsch
GWG: Do you think music plays a role in your kitchen? If so, how?
JB: No – not in a professional kitchen. We don’t play music in the back because we need to communicate constantly. On the other hand, they do in the prep kitchen and you can usually tell what everybody’s mood is (e.g. crazy angry death metal = NOT coming down there today). And sometimes, the butcher rocks out to T-Swift – we call it Club Rex.
GWG: Totally get the no cooking in the professional kitchen, but what about when you cook at home?
JB: I listen to mostly two bands: Tool and Pink Floyd. I also really like the Butthole surfers, The Misfits, Marilyn Manson (when no one’s home), and White Zombie.
GWG: What music (genre, artist, certain songs – whichever is easier to choose) would you pair with the current menu?
JB: I’ll be honest, it’s such a hard question to answer and I’ve never come up with a great answer in my mind. But I’ll go with “The Sharing Song” by Jack Johnson…
GWG: Where do you get your overall creative flow and inspiration to start innovating new recipes?
JB: [shrugs] It just comes from somewhere.
GWG: What is something that goes into being an executive chef that people don’t consider?
JB: Amount of time I spend not cooking. I sort of view the job like the editor of a newspaper. I spend a lot of time pulling everything all together to make the final product – the menu.
GWG: What drew you to Butcher and The Brewer?
JB: The chance to be back on East Fourth and work with a butcher – And because they’re simply great people to work for.
GWG: What are some of the coolest kitchen appliances/technology at the restaurant:
JB: My favorite is the Josper – it’s one of 20 or 30 in the country. It’s a charcoal-fired oven and the one used to make our bone marrow dish. Another great one is our Rational. It’s a steamer, smoker and oven all in one and very smart – it can be programmed.
MORE ON THE CHEF
One of the most remarkable traits of Jim Blevins is that he’s truly a self-taught chef. Jim grew up in Warren, Ohio, and he’s worked at a variety of jobs. Yet, something kept bringing him back to the kitchen environment.
Perhaps the draw of the kitchen stemmed from the fond childhood memories of his grandmother, who also worked in the food industry, cooking for him – his favorite was soft eggs and toast (at least, he’s sure this is what influenced his urge to top off many dishes with an egg) – or maybe he simply always felt “right” in the restaurant atmosphere, unlike his stints in roofing and landscaping.
While he said there was never a definitive, standout moment of wanting to work in the restaurant business, there was a distinct moment of realization that he wanted to kill it in the restaurant scene. Sure, most people want to be successful and do well, but this is the event that made him shift gears and strive to hustle even harder. We discovered this when we asked him what was the best meal he ever ate. It was the first time he had the bone marrow appetizer at Lolita; which we’re sure was delicious, in addition to being powerfully impactful. And to make matters even more epic, it was the very first date with his now wife!
“Instead of doing culinary school, get into the best restaurant you can and work there for free.”
After the spark was ignited, he started taking jobs he wasn’t quite ready for, only to discover he needed to gather a few essential skills before taking on more responsibility. So, he took a line cook position at Lola. There, he was able to gain the necessary skills and tools to take those jobs he had previously turned down. If he could give young, aspiring chefs advice, he would urge them to forego culinary school, get their foot in the door at the best restaurant they can and work there for free, soaking up all the knowledge they can.
MORE ON THE RESTAURANT
If you haven’t been, you definitely need to check out Butcher and The Brewer. The atmosphere, décor, food, and beer are all fantastic – even the bathroom set up is cool! As mentioned earlier in the Quick Q&A section, the Chef is usually in charge of piecing together the menu. So, Jim created and organized the majority of the restaurant’s menu.
If you can’t tell from the above menu and dishes, he’s a very innovative chef so for the standard restaurant menu, he finds himself toeing the line between weird and normal. He wants to keep the options interesting, but still accessible for most diners. In addition to that impressive balance, it’s a very solid menu and we learned that they went through a very rigorous process to achieve it. Jim and his team cooked 4-5 dishes a day and rejected about 98% of them. He said he would definitely do it differently next time, but it was a very valuable experience.
We were really interested in how seasonally and locally focused they are. Jim said they’ve done a great job with both initiatives their first year – which is impressive considering how hectic a restaurants first year can be – and want to intensely focus on them even more this year. Here’s a list that includes some stand-out local sources. He also noted that Butcher and the Brewer grows their own herbs.
- New Creation Farm (pork and beef
- Tea Hills Farms (chicken )
- Morningside Farm (veggies)
- Killbuck Valley Mushrooms, Ltd.
- Humble Pie Baking
- Green City Growers
They are also really focusing on getting the new Market portion open where they will have a variety of meats and other goodies for sale. Here are some of the products we can look forward to:
- Sandwiches, Hot Dogs, Lobster Rolls
- Aged beef, Pork, Charcuterie
- Locally sourced sauces, honey, maple syrup
- Butter, milk, cream, veggies
- Bread from On The Rise Bakery
- Growlers of beer
- AND maybe even Dog bones :)