Damon Brasch of Green and Nami, Part 2
Yesterday we shared the first part of our talk with vegan chef and owner of Green, Damon Brasch who shared the story behind the century-year-old buildings that now house his most recent culinary endeavors in the middle of downtown Phoenix.
Today Brasch, known also for his mad music skills (he's the guitar player in the band MISR WAT), explains how he, a former meat-eater turned vegetarian nearly two decades ago, ended up being a leader in the Valley's vegan food scene.
"I'm a working class guy. I didn't go culinary school; I didn't get to work under a famous chef...but I did get to work under some great chefs. I've been working in the restaurant business my whole life and I have a passion for food. The passion for food comes from my family, a big Italian family. My mother and my grandmother are two of the best chefs I've ever known. They were a huge part of me wanting to cook and not just wanting to cook, but [wanting to] understand where your food comes from."
If you didn't go to culinary school, how did you learn your craft?
I became vegetarian about 17 or 18 years ago and I really hadn't started my chef career at that point. Then I got a job as the executive chef for Bottomline Hospitality, which owns SIX and Mickey's Hangover and some of the places in Scottsdale. ...They were looking for someone fresh and dynamic...so fresh they didn't have to pay him a lot of money and someone who would do a really great job. I had to go fly around the country and for instance, if there was a great salad they wanted to figure out to recreate, I'd fly to wherever, go to the place, get the salad, come back to the hotel room, figure out how to make it, come back here and recreate it in a test kitchen. Basically I had the ability to buy any ingredient I wanted. So that's a really good version of culinary school. That's where I got my chops as far as my skills and stuff.
So I was vegetarian for like 17 years and I cooked meat the whole time. I never had a problem preparing it; I never had a problem touching it; but I never tasted it. I never tasted it the whole time. There were always [people] like, "How does he do that?" The best thing I can tell you is I had a really great experience early on with this great chef. I was sort of nervous about launching my career as a chef but I was like, I'm not going to put my moral feelings on the backburner, because I think I can do it all together. He was just like, "Yeah, yeah all the great chefs, they cook with their noses. So you just have to work your nose out. Your tongue doesn't know anything." So I followed that advice.
Some people do consider you a leader in the food scene here, particularly in the vegan/vegetarian food scene. Was that a position you ever thought you'd see yourself in?
No, gosh no. I don't even know how much truth there is to that... I think I have a lot of friends and that's really nice. And I love my city. I love this city. My kids go to school in this city; my wife works at the hospital down the street. We want this city to be the best it can be and so I think that people get inspired by that and I want people to get inspired by that because I'm inspired by tons of other people. We're just a small little part of what makes this city great and we're damn lucky to be a part of it.
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