Sean Brock [Provided]
I moved here in 2006 to work at McCrady's, and I've been obsessed with that place ever since. It's a big restaurant, and the food we've always done has been challenging. It's about pushing, forward thinking, and being creative. Looking through things with a modern lens is my passion.
McCrady's is taking a little nap, getting a new set of clothes, a little makeover, and is coming back stronger and cooler than ever.
You're going to hear me mention Japan a lot. I've been a bit obsessed since I first went, but they have a culture — and I love this idea — of focusing on one thing and doing it perfectly your whole life with an intense focus. It's been frustrating over the past years. When we take the tasting menu away, the city gets upset, but when we bring the tasting menu back, no one orders it. So, we went back and forth and back and forth. After 10 years, we have to skip that and really focus on sets of clientele and guests to be able to please them more and provide a better experience. Everyone wrote that McCrady's was closing, but that's so untrue. McCrady's is taking a little nap, getting a new set of clothes, a little makeover, and is coming back stronger and cooler than ever.
McCrady's will shrink down to 22 seats [with an open kitchen in the dining room], one menu, and it will be the most intense food I ever created. That's not closing McCrady's — that's making McCrady's into what I always wanted it to be. I'm very excited about that.
It will be the most intense food I ever created...making McCrady's into what I always wanted it to be.
My biggest focus in the new McCrady's is the experience for the guests. The obsession with hospitality is what's keeping me up at night. Every detail of every single detail, from the website, from when you Google it, to the next morning when you wake up — I want to be able to control that in a way that provides an experience you can't get anywhere else. I haven't even thought about one dish. I've sketched out some menu formats and flows, but I'll let that happen naturally. Once we get the Tavern open, then R&D [research and development] will start for McCrady's.
The meetings, and meetings, and meetings we have over selecting a single wine glass shows how we are trying to focus to create something very special. If you think about it, there's not a lot of restaurants providing that in the country, so it's cool to be able to provide that on the East Coast and in the South. We want it to be accessible to everyone. It's no fun if it's too expensive for everyone to experience.
McCrady's Tavern [McCrady's]
The Tavern is an idea that's been bouncing around in my head for a few years now. I've always been obsessed with Pre-Depression American cooking. The food after the Civil War, and before the Great Depression, the Gilded Age, was a really, really cool moment for American cooking. This is when people were inventing things like baked Alaska, oysters Rockefeller, and lobster newburg and thermidor.
This food was happening in grand hotels, railcars, and cruise ships, served on grand plates with grand service. We look at it now, and it doesn't seem interesting, but if you think about it, the guy who invented baked Alaska was the equivalent of Grant Achatz at the time — he set ice cream and sorbet on fire, at the table. That's pretty avant garde. I decided that Tavern will be food in that spirit. We're not giving baked Alaska though.
We look at it now, and it doesn't seem interesting, but if you think about it, the guy who invented baked alaska was the equivalent of Grant Achatz — he set ice cream and sorbet on fire, at the table.
We spent the last five or six months in an R&D kitchen testing and testing and testing. It's just like what we did for Minero, where we get to a point that we cannot not make that dish any better. It's almost too much flavor. It's almost too delicious. We want people to eat this food and start laughing because it's that good.
We want people to eat this food and start laughing because it's that good.
I'm very obsessed with steakhouses and the comfort of knowing exactly what you're going to get. Menus don't change every day at a steakhouse. It's what I call the power of craveability. If you crave something it haunts you. That's what we're trying to create. Every time we finish a dish, if I'm not thinking about it ten minutes later or if I can't stop eating it — even if I'm full — then the dish isn't complete.
We've created a pretty special burger — a burger that rivals the Husk burger.
I'll show you [takes out iPhone]. This is flounder vin blanc. Old-school and classic, but there's hydrocolloids in that sauce, meat glue in that fish, and modern techniques that allow us to keep it consistent and tight and refined. When people were cooking that, that was modern in its time, and I love that. We created a pretty special burger — a burger that rivals the Husk burger. I might like it better, actually, but I've had a lot of Husk burgers.
We're fortunate enough to have an R&D program where we can sit in a room for 15 hours to perfect tater tot caviar.
Do you know how caviar service normally comes separated and all the stuff falls off because you can't hold it on there? Keeping that in mind for the guest, I came up with a way to get it all in one bite for it to stay in the vessel. Ours is layered like a parfait with a full ounce of caviar. The yolk at the bottom layer is cooked and thickened, so when you scoop it onto the hash brown, it all ends up in one bite. It's this obsession with taking something anyone else can do and walking through it as a guest and a cook. We take a look at it historically and ask how we can play with it, not to be silly or humorous, but to slightly improve upon it. For example, that yolk, we tested that at 59°, 60°, 62°, 63°, one hour, and 30 minutes, until it stayed on that tater tot [laughs]. We're fortunate enough to have an R&D program where we can sit in a room for 15 hours to perfect tater tot caviar.
I think it's great because McCrady's will now cater to all needs of the guests.
Take our smothered pork chop and herb salad. That pork goes through a lot of things before it gets to the grill, and that sauce has about 25 ingredients. It's not just simple cooking. It looks simple, but that's so much work, thought, and prep.
As told to Erin Perkins, lightly edited for clarity.