James Beard award-winning chef Bradley Ogden is opening several restaurants in Houston, including Funky Chicken, which had its soft opening on December 6. Its grand opening will take place on December 18. We talked to him recently about his career and plans for the new restaurants.
EOW: How did you get into cooking? Did you cook as a child?
BO: No, not regularly. My dad, who owned a big rock and roll club in Michigan, also started a restaurant, and I helped him a bit at the restaurant. He was fanatical about farm-fresh ingredients, so in that way I was always around great food: free-range chicken, beefsteak tomatoes, etc. I also did a lot of hunting and fishing on my grandmother's farm. So, basically, though I was a typical Midwest kid, I was also developing my palate. Later, my twin brother and I went off to the CIA together and I got serious about cooking, specifically farm-to-table cuisine.
EOW: How would you describe your cooking style, in three words?
BO: Fresh, seasonal, universal. Food that I enjoy cooking and eating.
EOW: Whom do you admire in the culinary world?
BO: Definitely Charlie Trotter. He was a great colleague. Also Wolfgang Puck. I think he does it extremely well, stays focused, and I admire that.
EOW: So why come to Texas? To Houston?
BO: We were working on some new projects and Bryan had a lot of friends here in Houston. They were encouraging us with our new company to come here because of the opportunity for growth and the strong food community. We looked around and fell in love with Houston.
EOW: What's the best and worst thing about working with your son?
BO: Well, two of my boys are chefs. Both are CIA graduates; Chad [Ogden] works in Hong Kong. Working with Bryan here in Houston is great because he has such tremendous passion. It's every father's dream to work with your child, and to see your kid have a passion as well as an understanding and commitment to excellence is wonderful. The challenging thing about working with your own son is just that inevitably you sometimes differ in opinion. With us, though, there's a good balance of understanding. He might say this and I might say that, and vice versa, but I respect his opinion. Sometimes he has a better answer than me.
EOW: What inspired the name "Funky Chicken"? (Are you secretly an aspiring flashdancer?)
BO: Well, I always wanted to have a good chicken place, and we developed what we think is a great concept.
EOW: I see you also have pot pies on the menu at Funky Chicken. What's your secret to a great pot pie crust?
BO: We use a biscuit crust. I have a recipe in my holiday cookbook, which has sour cream in it and is very user-friendly.
EOW: Okay, now some quickfire questions, so our readers can get to know you a little bit better.
BO: [Laughs] Sure.
EOW: What do you think is the most overrated ingredient?
BO: Truffle oil. I hate it. Oh my goodness, it really overpowers stuff.
EOW: How do you like your eggs?
BO: I think my favorite preparation is a soft poached egg with country whole wheat toast. It's especially great late at night when you've had too much wine.
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EOW: What do you cook for yourself on your days off?
BO: Everything from simple grilled meats and salads to homemade paellas. Also just a roast chicken.
EOW: Where do you see yourself in ten years?
BO: I'm not retiring anytime soon; I have too much energy. There's a whole part of me that wants to develop a cooking school. That's definitely part of our whole plan. I see myself teaching on a ranch or resort located near a strong wine community, offering culinary education to both kids and adults.