Interview with Chef Bobby Benjamin

If you’re in the Louisville, Kentucky area, be sure to visit Butchertown Grocery. Don’t let the name fool you, it’s a highly ranked restaurant serving refined food in a former family market. Executive Chef and Owner, Bobby Benjamin, has founded Butchertown Grocery on his simple culinary philosophy: respect ingredients, cook with integrity and be honest on the plate. Learn more about this talented chef in our exclusive Q&A!

 


Q: How many years have you been cooking as a professional chef?

A. I started my first kitchen job when I was 12 in Bell Buckle, TN, but I got my first true Chef position when I was 26, at Flyte World Dining and Wine in Nashville, TN. This was before Nashville blew up, and no kidding, the restaurant was between a methadone clinic, a “social club”, and a liquor store.


Q: How did you originally get interested in cooking as a profession?

A. I needed a job when I was young, and so I started washing dishes. Then I had the opportunity to move to the line and cook. I fell in love with the culture of respect and education.


Q: What are 5 ingredients that can always be found in your kitchen at home?

A. Olive oils, vinegars, citrus, onions, bell peppers


Q: When you go out to eat, what are some of your favorite restaurants to visit around the Greater Louisville area?

A. Chik’n & Mi, MozzaPi, Con Huevos


Q: You use a variety of locally-sourced ingredients in many of your dishes. What is a common misconception with Farm-to-Table cooking that you’d like to change?

A. Food comes from farms, so it’s all farm to table. But seriously, just because something is touted as “farm to table” does not mean that it is necessarily of higher than average quality. It matters which farm the food is from, and what their level of care is.


Q: Would you be willing to share some of the names of the farms that you currently source ingredients from and why you find it important to source local ingredients?

A. Spade & Table is a local farm that we work with quite extensively. We get over 20 varieties of heirloom tomatoes from them, as well as carrots, radishes, beets, turnips, shishito peppers, poblano peppers, bell peppers, garlic, lettuce, and more. Lisa is a great farmer to work with. She and I share the same passion for produce.


Q: What advice do you have for the average home cook?

A. Use the best ingredients you can find, keep it seasonal, and keep it simple. Let the ingredients do the talking.


Q: Who do you look up to for culinary inspiration and why?

A. I have a great admiration and respect for many chefs, but if I had to pick just one it would be Jacques Pepin. He is one of my culinary heroes. He was a pioneer in terms of educating the public about proper cooking techniques. Mincing garlic, roasting a chicken, you name it and he has demonstrated the proper technique. I also admire that Chef Pepin gives back to the community. I have been involved with the Jacques Pepin Foundation for a few years now, and they do some really great things, focusing primarily on empowering people and communities through culinary education.


Q: When you have the day off, what do you enjoy making for breakfast?

A. I like to cook eggs with my girls. My oldest daughter Copeland, who is four, can make proper eggs, so I get a kick out of cooking with her.


Q: What is your go-to meal to create at home when you’re short on time?

A. It depends on what I have in the house and what I am in the mood for. A lot of times it will be salad, but it could be anything. The broccolini dish on BG’s menu actually came about when I was cooking at home with my family from what was in the kitchen.


Q: What is a food trend or ingredient that you predict will grow in popularity in 2019?

A. Fermentation? Vinegars? Vegetables?


Q: What’s one ingredient that people should be using more of in their kitchens and why?

A. Olive oil. There are so many beautiful olive oils in the world. Like wine, the terroir and various production methods bring out diverse flavors. I also get very geeked out on vinegars.

Or… citrus. People often don’t recognize how important acid is. It awakens the palate and allows other ingredients to sing.


 

Charred Broccolini Recipe

Chef Bobby Benjamin also shared his recipe for Charred Broccolini. View the full recipe here!

 


More About Bobby Benjamin, Executive Chef/Owner of Butchertown Grocery

As diners gaze past the century-old brick, colorful spice collection, and beautifully stocked bar, they are sure to catch a glimpse of Chef Bobby Benjamin in his element. The open kitchen allows guests the chance to experience their food from the beginning stages to the last bite. His philosophy is simple, like his food: respect ingredients, cook with integrity and be honest on the plate. Benjamin’s menu is ever-changing with the seasons and even new cultural experiences. One factor consistently remains – every dish is deeply personal and crafted with care. He paid his dues in top kitchens across the country and earned his culinary degree from Louisville’s own Sullivan University. Aside from these experiences, Benjamin says his perseverance and drive are what led him to his current position. Born in 1980, he found a passion for cooking and culinary technique honing his skills as a 16-year-old line cook in rural Tennessee. Nearly 20 years later, Benjamin sees his family, wife Hanna and two daughters, as the catalyst for being the best chef possible. With the birth of his daughters, the intrepid chef found a new reason to experiment with food by creating dishes he believes in.

Benjamin’s hard work has afforded him his dream – to build a restaurant with approachable food, inviting atmosphere and a ‘third space’ for locals to enjoy. From beautifully crafted, handmade gnocchi to composed, circumspect vegetable dishes, Chef Benjamin and his team serve properly made, unpretentious food one plate at a time. Inspired by the building’s former life as a grocery store, the restaurant is outfitted to fully display what goes into each dish for complete transparency with diners. Whether he’s sourcing well-cultivated meats and vegetables or concocting all of his own sauces from scratch, Benjamin knows that great food starts with great ingredients.

1076 E. Washington St. | Louisville, KY 40206 | ButchertownGrocery.com