5 Questions with TGK’s Head Chef
Plus some advice for home cooks
Brandon was born and raised in North Carolina, just like The Good Kitchen itself. After working on the line in a number of kitchens in the state, he met TGK’s founder, Amber Lewis, and has been the one behind all of your favorite recipes ever since.
We caught Brandon between batches to answer questions about his time with TGK, his process in the kitchen, and the one skill he thinks every home cook should have.
What was it like being the first TGK employee?
Teaming up with a company from the groundfloor is such a crazy, fast-paced, exciting experience. You have to wear so many hats (though no one ever made me literally wear a chef’s hat, which was nice).
It was all very “homegrown”. My wife knew Amber and Carter [TGK’s Chief Creative Officer] through the local Crossfit gym, and when she learned about their big aspirations to make healthy, ethically sourced eating easy, she suggested a chef who could help. That chef was me.
In the beginning it was me and Amber in the kitchen, doing every last little thing by hand: grinding all of the sea salt, breaking down every bird, and working with whatever proteins and produce she brought back from the farms in her tiny Mini Cooper.
It’s wild to think of how much we’ve grown since then.
What inspires you when you’re thinking up new dishes?
Everything we do is ingredient-driven. It’s all about doing justice to our well-sourced proteins and building nutritionally complete meals, and I like to work with both international flavors and the recipes I grew up with living in the Southeast. When I’m brainstorming new recipes, I’m working in the parameters of Whole30, or paleo, or the anti-inflammatory protocol, and it forces me to drill down on clean, simple cooking done well.
I want to cook meals that are REAL and delicious with basic, high-quality ingredients. I want to cook for other people the type of food I would make for myself.
What’s your favorite TGK meal?
Oh man, I really couldn’t say! We’ve made literally hundreds of meals, and there are so many dishes that I love coming back to over and over again in my own kitchen. I think the recipe that people have really loved the most is the Chili Lime Chicken. It’s a simple marinade, but that blend of heat, citrus, and savory spices is just so well balanced.
And we now have a feature on the site that lets people rate their meals so that I have feedback to use while I’m coming up with new ideas. So hey, everyone, let me know what you think!
How have things changed since the early days with you and Amber in the kitchen?
It’s one thing to make a recipe, it’s another to scale up and prepare each recipe for our huge crew of subscribers every week. That systems-building, creative problem-solving element of the job is my favorite part. Me and the rest of the team are basically doing the math, streamlining things, and making it work on behalf of everyone out there who wants to eat well but doesn’t have the time to bring all of those pieces together.
We want to grow as big as we can, reach as many kitchens as we can, simplify as many lives as we can –– without compromising on anything that makes us who we are. And the core of that is sourcing. That’s what it’s always been about and will always be about.
It hit me how much we’ve grown when I saw the meals that I plated in Walmart, of all places. The photos on the boxes were taken in my kitchen at home, on plates that Amber and Carter actually got my wife and I as a wedding gift. It’s pretty surreal.
What advice do you have for homecooks looking to up their game?
It all starts with an egg. If you can cook an egg properly, you can do anything. Practice your omelette-making expertise and that will give you the skills to do so many other things well.
Beyond that, there are a few simple things you can do to improve your everyday meals. First off, I would recommend making friends with sheet pan dinners: Start your veggies in a pan to brown them before moving them to the oven, and when you do, crank that oven up. Pair it with a well-seared steak and you can turn those basic things into a lot of versatile meals.
Thanks, Brandon! We’re looking forward to seeing what you come up with next.
To see what’s on the menu this week, click here. And don’t forget to rate your meals – Brandon wants to hear from you!