The Brooks has changed my cooking with the power of art.
Like so many other restaurants, at the Brushmark, we change our menu with the seasons. As chefs, Wally and I plan our menu the season before, using our years of experience to guess the availability of new foods. Sometimes, it is hard to be inspired to write a menu around pumpkins and chanterelle mushrooms while still serving ripe tomatoes and melons.
The Brooks offers many outlets for inspiration. The changing exhibitions have always yielded good ideas. In 2007, the Brushmark paired Ethiopian injera and piri piri with “Power Dressing: Men’s Fashion and Prestige in Africa”. Later, when “Canaletto” was on display, it only seemed natural to serve northern Italian cuisine.
It’s not always a painting or photograph on a wall that drives our menu decisions. There are many other programs at the museum that help. While showing the British Television Advertising Awards every January, we serve British pub food. Films, educational programs, and seasonal holidays make it easy to make a decision on the day’s menu.
September 15th through October 15th is National Hispanic Heritage Month. The Brooks will be full of activities, including my favorite, a piñata workshop. The menu selections for this fall should be obvious: South American. Although most of my training is in French and Southern U.S. cuisine, I do from time to time make mole or chimi churi.
On our new menu, we will wrap Newman Farms pork in banana leaves, and roast it slowly over apple wood smoke until tender. This will be served in a torta bolillo, or Mexican sandwich similar to a mini baguette. For dessert: my take on tres leches. I have used my knowledge of French patisserie to recreate this tasty cake. For the base, we use a Jaconde or thin almond cake. It absorbs the three sweet milks very well while still holding its shape. We pair the cake with braised figs, more almonds, and a citrus fig caramel made from dulce leche (caramelized milk).
From the kitchen… we can’t wait to see what the museum inspires us to do next!
Andrew Adams, Chef de Cuisine
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art