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Chef Talk: Suzy Smith of Pub 32

Time:2016-11-17 12:30wine - Red wine life health Click:

Talk chef Suzy Smith

By Abby Weingarten, Correspondent

Chef Suzy Smith of Pub 32 (8383 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; 941-952-3070; irishpub32.com) studied in San Francisco, California, before working at various award-winning restaurants throughout the West Coast. Upon relocating to Florida, she cooked at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota and later joined Pub 32. Now, at the Sarasota gastropub, her authentic menu includes creative twists on classic Irish dishes.

Q: How did you find this career path?

A: My mother was a very adventurous eater and encouraged me to be, too. One of my earliest, most nostalgic memories is of the smell of cumin-scented jasmine rice and the taste of mango lassi. After my mother passed, I went to live with family in the Midwest, which was not exactly a culinary hotbed at the time. When I moved back to California, my aunts took me to the Rotunda at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco. I ordered a Fattoush salad (it is dressed very simply with lemon juice and cumin) and it kind of woke me up. I was like, ‘Whoa. Food can taste this good?!’ Since then, I have been chasing that high.

Q: What have been some of your career highlights so far?

A: I was extremely fortunate that, for my externship, I was able to work under Melissa Perello at the Fifth Floor (a Michelin star restaurant led by an amazingly talented woman). I then moved on to work under Stuart Brioza (who I consider my mentor) at another Michelin star restaurant, Rubicon, before coming to Sarasota.

Q: What are three of your signature dishes on the Pub 32 menu?

A: Our goat cheese oat cakes are consistently described as unique and delicious. I think the dish really sums up what we are doing here—utilizing traditional Irish ingredients like steel cut oats and goat cheese, and making them something surprising with the use of in-season ingredients. Then there is the duck, which is pure Irish. I always have some seasonal variation of it on the menu; right now it is kind of southern-meets-Irish, with Anson Mills grits and mustard greens. I would say the salmon is kind of in the same vein; it has celery root purée, burst tomato and mushroom vinaigrette, and roasted fennel. I think it speaks to the season and it is something you might actually find on your plate in Ireland.

Q: What is one thing people may not know about Pub 32?

A: Our approach to Irish cuisine, I would say. We have your traditional fare, for sure, but I try to explore what Irish food really is, not just what Americans think it should be. By using Irish-centric ingredients and modernizing traditional methods, we offer a unique experience that really cannot be found anywhere else in Sarasota.

Q: What was one of the most memorable meals you served at your restaurant?

A: Christmas Eve dinner last year. I had just taken over as head chef and it was my first attempt at a coursed menu on my own. We had fresh oysters, vegetable terrine, duck and our general manager Ross Galbraith’s grandmother’s recipe for Christmas pudding. We made our own eggnog and mulled wine. I was incredibly nervous, of course, but it really went well. The whole dining room smelled of mulling spices, and Louise (Ross’ wife) had done such a beautiful job decorating the dining room, it was really magical. I cannot wait to do it again this year.

BURST TOMATOES AND MUSHROOMS

Ingredients:

2 pints whole cherry or grape tomatoes, washed and stemmed

3 ounces oyster mushrooms, shredded and stemmed

¼ cup fresh garlic, chopped

1 cup olive oil

2 sprigs fragrant rosemary, leaves only

Method:

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Throw everything in a 9-inch-by-9-inch casserole dish, and season generously with salt and pepper. Make sure the oil coats everything but does not go over halfway up the tomatoes. Place the mixture in the oven for 10 minutes. Shake everything up and cook it for another 10 minutes. Add the rosemary and serve.

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