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Behind the Brunch

Meet the chefs who made the 2019 Foodfort-Alefort brunch collaboration possible

Lex Nelson

With less than 24 hours to go before Treefort Music Fest opened for its fifth and final day, chefs all over Boise were working steadily to prepare their dishes for an inaugural event under the Alefort tent’s roof: a collaborative brunch that would join the forces of Treefort and Alefort, pairing five top-notch dishes from local kitchens with Dawson Taylor coffee, regional beer and cider for a crowd of 300. Before the so-called Sunday Roast was over, a sea of moving parts and disparate ingredients would come together to make something that tasted a bit like magic.

“It does take a lot of work. It’s a lot of networking and grabbing the right, consistent people, and having all the licenses in place. There’s a long board that goes on prep-wise,” said Scott Tharp, the founder of My Family Tradition Sauce and Rub Company and one of the chefs contributing a taste to the Roast.

For Tharp, that process started with sourcing the ingredients for his chosen dish: a sweet basil quiche topped with Wagyu Kobe tri-tip and drizzled with Late Harvest salsa, itself the product of a collaboration between MFT and Culinary Collective Network founder Kris Ott crafted with excess produce from Wagner Farms in Meridian. He turned to Snake River Farms, a family-owned ranch, for the tri-tip, which he then spent hours preparing. When he spoke to Culinary Collective Network at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 23, he estimated that he and his two team members had another six hours of prep time to go before brunch kicked off at noon the next day.

“I fire the tri-tip over hickory hard-lump charcoal, so I’ve got the grill going right now and I’m going to fire that off tonight. I cook it at about 500 to 600 degrees, and I blacken it. That is the key feature of the dish, so I really pride myself on that one,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a kitchen not far away, Katie and Chris Munro of the still-new eatery Kiwi Shake & Bake were well into prepping their own contributions, two traditional New Zealand hand pies, one bacon and egg, the other stuffed with vegetables coated in bechamel.

“We’re quite proud to be asked to join in, quite excited,” he said.

“For us, it’s been a busy day today just getting everything ready to go, the pie fillings and puff pastry all made and rolled out, and then tomorrow morning we have to give it one more time through the sheeter to roll it down to the correct thickness,” Chris Munro told CCN at 7 p.m. on Saturday. “…We’ll go into work at 5 [a.m.] tomorrow morning and we’ll get into [filling the pies] and we’ll have the pies done hopefully in plenty of time.”

As a new business, the Munros also had to fork out $75 for a permit to operate off-site for the day, but Chris said it was well worth it for the exposure his business would get from putting pies in the hands of 300 eager Treeforters.

On the day of the brunch, two other new businesses shared that same glow in handing out their products. One was The Dapper Doughnut, the newest branch of a Chicago-based company serving miniature donuts with fun toppings  like “milk” frosting and crushed cereal, maple drizzle and bacon bits, and lemon curd. Its location in Garden City has yet to open its doors, but with a streamlined operation and 15 years in the restaurant industry behind her, franchise owner Stephanie Hurtado wasn’t sweating the process of plating up paper boats of fried-to-order donuts for guests. Her only worry was that thanks to the chill, drizzly weather, her treats were cooling down before they reached waiting mouths.

“We do catering and off-site catering, we’ve done a couple of Christmas parties, we do events for Garden City, we did Trunk-or-Treat with the police department, just different events to get our name out there,” Hurtado said, adding that big events are easy as long as she can premake her dough, ready her toppings bring along her fryer.

Michelle Russell, the chef behind the vegan foods company The Kula Connection, had a similarly easy time prepping her contribution—plant-based yogurt parfaits topped with house-made sugar-free granola and blueberries—despite her company’s fledgling status.

“[This brunch] is our first big event. It was really fun; we had 12 people show up this morning to pack yogurt parfaits. We packed 300 and it took us less than half an hour with all those people. It was just like, ‘Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom!’ I can’t turn them away,” Russell said of her volunteer workforce, “They just show up, and they’re like, ‘We can give you an hour.’”

Meanwhile, a few places down the table from Russell, Red Feather Executive Chef Maria Clarke and her much smaller team were plating up more or less the polar opposite of vegan cuisine, a dish designed to utilize the whole pigs the Red Feather restaurant group gets from local ranchers each week: rendered bacon-fat biscuits topped with chorizo and red-eye gravy. While she’s accustomed to running large events, Clarke said plating up brunch while the restaurant was also open and serving was a challenge for her lean staff.

“Red Feather only has a staff of six people, and we’ve all been there since I started [in July 2018]. We’re a very tiny little family, so trying to run the normal restaurant and this is a little stressful, but my sous chef and I work about 70, 80 hours per week,” she said. “…We’re stretched a little thin, but [my staff], they get really excited to do stuff like this, they’re really proud of what they do. So if I get a chance to show off how good they are, I’ll always do it.”

That sentiment rang true about every team in attendance, and Tharp described the energy crackling in the air best the night before the event began, when he was still slaving over the coals with his Wagyu.

“People are banding together, especially here in Boise,” he told CCN. “It’s just awesome, it’s incredible.”

Photo Credit – Kris Ott and Lex Nelson