Acclaimed chef Sean Brock is sure of two things: Southern cuisine is the best in the world, and the tasting menu is essential. “For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved that way of dining and I think it’s really important to support it,” he tells hosts Helen Rosner and Greg Morabito on a recent episode of the Eater Upsell.
The tasting menu, Brock says, used to epitomize fine dining and is still “critical to happiness.” Although upscale dining today encompasses a variety of menu formats, it’s important to the Husk chef that he continue to defend tasting menus, both by visiting the “big four” tasting menu spots in New York (Per Se, Jean-Georges, Daniel, and Le Bernardin), and by creating his own multi-course experience at his tasting-menu-only Charleston restaurant, McCrady’s.
Brock is aware of the cyclical backlash against tasting menus, a trend he says “drives [him] completely insane,” and works to counteract it with his recently revamped McCrady’s “anti-tasting menu” tasting menu. “I want it to be the opposite of everyone’s perception of what a tasting menu is and feels like because obviously people aren’t that interested in the way that style of things makes them feel or costs,” he says.
When devising the new McCrady’s menu, Brock considered all of the reasons why someone wouldn’t enjoy this kind of dining, including “sitting for three hours, too much talking from the server, too much information, too much stuff, just trying too hard, too much theater.” The chef shared the list with his team, with the added directive that the goal of the McCrady’s tasting menu is to take away the guests’ stress for the duration of the meal. The end result is a two-hour, 15- to 18-course tasting experience, in which every minute is carefully choreographed. “I can make you excited. I can make you nervous, hit all those emotions at very specific times,” Brock explains.
Brock hopes his tasting menu at McCrady’s is therapeutic for the diner — “You’re there to relax and get away from life for a little while and just escape into this world of relaxation, deliciousness, and connection,” he says — but the multi-course format is also important to his growth as a chef. He says, “I enjoy pushing myself to do better every day and [the tasting menu] provides that opportunity for me.”
Hear the complete interview with Sean Brock as he discusses his newfound self-care routine, expanding Husk, and why he thinks Southern food is the best food on the planet. Subscribe to the Eater Upsell on iTunes, or listen on Soundcloud. You can also get the entire archive of episodes right here on Eater.
• How Sean Brock Reinvented Himself (and His Restaurants) [E]
• All Episodes of the Eater Upsell [E]
• The Eater Upsell: Sean Brock [iTunes | Spotify | Art19]