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In a modern take on Mid-Atlantic cuisine, new kid on the block Shilling Canning Company preserves more than just farm-fresh ingredients.
What is Mid-Atlantic cuisine exactly and how are you modernizing the regional style?
It’s the food I grew up with and the way my grandmother approached cooking – using locally grown, raised or produced ingredients. My experience in kitchens in and outside the region (the Dabney in Shaw, Bouchon Bistro in Napa) exposed me to flavors and techniques that inspired me to take a more adaptive approach to classic Mid-Atlantic cuisine. Our goal is to find the highest quality ingredients and then figure out what to do with them once they enter the building.
“There is little, if anything, you can do to make a product better from when it comes in, so we start with the best we can find.”@reidshilling
What have you adopted from the first Shilling Canning Company, and how has your family’s approach to preservation influenced you as a chef, and now restaurateur? They were excited about ingredients: where they came from and how they were grown. The original Shilling Canning Company went as far as affixing it to the can’s labels: ‘These peas are packed fresh from our own farms’. They were proud of the quality of the products they produced and canned, and these values are now woven across our family. Our focus begins with quality. There is little, if anything, you can do to make a product better from when it comes in, so we start with the best we can find.
How have you paired what goes on in the kitchen with the wine and cocktail selection created by bar director Britt Ingalls? Every element of our restaurant is intertwined. Jessica, our service director, is also our sommelier. Britt, our bar director, spends a good amount of time with our executive sous chef figuring out what product channels in the kitchen can supply her with flavors for the bar, whether it’s something we can share or something she can re-purpose to extract more flavor.
Tell us about this culinary garden. What are — and do you plan on — growing on-premise? Our garden is still ramping up, but I utilize it every day. We currently have 5 to 6 different basils, anise hyssop, dill, cilantro, bronze fennel, sorrel, oxalis wood sorrel, edible flowers, chives, tarragon and a few strains of mint. We’ve set up trellises for lemon cucumbers, gherkins, sun gold tomatoes and hearty kiwi that will grow up and over the patio to provide a little intimacy for the dining al fresco.
Where do you source ingredients not grown in-house? An overwhelming amount of the ingredients we use come directly from the grower or producer. Atilla at Mountain View Farm Organics, Jon at Karma Farm, Emily at Black Rock Orchard, Top Hat Jeff brings our lobsters, scallops and other seafood right from the docks in Cape May. We also have artisan producers like Keepwell Vinegar, Shepherds Manor Creamery, Autumn Olive Farms, to name just a few.
Where can we expect to see hints of your experience at Bouchon Bistro in Napa? Instead of writing a menu and then sourcing the ingredients, the west coast mentality is to source first – and then figure out what to do with it. This is the premise on which Shilling Canning Company built. Cooking is a series of techniques and ratios, all of which can be applied to any application. For example, when we have a great ingredient we want to highlight and determine what the precise menu item will be, we use these techniques and ratios to get us to the final product.
This is your breakout restaurant venture. What excites you the most about this new chapter? I’ve been working on this project for longer than people realize. I conceived the idea for this restaurant years ago during my time living in California and working with the local farmers out there. I think what excites me most is being able to share this vision with our guests, our friends, and our family. Watching it come from an idea, making its way onto paper in the form of a business plan, and then drawings and construction, to now having guests in the restaurant enjoying themselves and eating our food. Experiencing our brand of hospitality has been awesome.
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