Dinner on the Farm: An Interview with Brooklyn Brewery Chef Andrew Gerson
By Alana Ramo
As a beer lover and homebrewer I was excited to find out that Brooklyn Brewery is traveling to DC this coming week for MASH, a cross-country (and seas) tour to celebrate beer, food, and culture. The tour features dinner parties, concerts, comedy, and more in an “adventurous mix” of emerging culture from different neighborhoods.
Brooklyn Brewery is already pretty great, but I was pleasantly surprised to find they are also on a mission to build local community and strengthen food culture around the world. With a new brewery in Stockholm, and more dinners, readings, and music during MASH, Brooklyn Brewery is working side by side with creatives, makers, and crafters and helping small businesses meet their communities.
The Intentional is headed to MASH’s Dinner on the Farm this Sunday, June 1st along with other great DC makers. In advance of our delicious dinner, I had the chance to speak with Brooklyn Brewery Chef, Andrew Gerson, about his experiences building community through food and that one time he made a meal in a nuclear reactor.
You’ve been traveling a lot recently and have been actively involved in new food movements. What are some unique food inventions, creations, or meetups you’ve experienced?
We are continuing our own movement and I’m very excited that we were able to take MASH international this year, in Stockholm, where we launched a new brewery called Nya Carnegie with our Swedish importer, Carlsberg. We hired Billy White, who is a really talented chef, to put together a beer-centric menu focusing on the interaction of food and beer. The coolest part of being out there was being able to work together. Experimenting and working with different chefs is a great collaborative endeavor. I love being able to elevate a dish or meal from my own personal ideas and seeing it grow with other influences. It’s also really interesting to see what’s locally available in different cities.
In each city we work with Dinner Lab, an exciting pop-up dining group. To be able to have them as a national partner is really cool for us; it epitomizes what collaboration is all about in this industry. We also work with Dinner on the Farm, a farm dinner series out of Minnesota that helps us highlight a local farm in every Mash city. We’ve been able to work with great chefs in every city along the way. It really helps us celebrate new brewing and food innovators.
This is an extension of the Brooklyn Brewery philosophy of the natural symbiosis of food and beer. We take it one step further and place it within the community. This network of artists, brewers, chefs, entrepreneurs, artisans, and craftsmen is really one big community, and all are very similarly minded people with great energy. We’ve been able to really dig in and celebrate groups like you—artisans and craftsmen that are making our cities dynamic.
What does it means to be a food activist?
I’ve spent a lot of time working with Slow Food and other organizations that support local food systems. In Chile I spent time with different organizations that are trying to create a communal voice and share resources to support the local foods. Food activism also means showcasing products made through sustainable food practices, and sustainability is about three things—community, economics, and the planet earth.
We have reached the point where 50% of our agriculture is in corn production and it goes to non-food related products. Who wants to hear about farm to table? Well, it’s never been more important. Creating awareness is still incredibly essential.
What we do is showcase these producers and create a forum that people can appreciate and enjoy. So much of food is about pleasure. Getting people engaged and interested is the biggest value that we can provide.
Food literature seems to be experiencing its moment right now. There are a ton of print magazines that we love—Put an Egg on It, Cherry Bombe, Kinfolk…. And I feel like I’ve bought a few books in the last year that weren’t quite cookbooks and weren’t quite memoirs, but rather some feel-good mix of the two. Do you have any favorite food books or food magazines that get you inspired? Anything we should put on our reading list immediately?
Lucky Peach is one of my favorites.
René Redzepi, Chef and founder of NOMA restaurant, really bridged the gap between recipe and photo-voyeurism. He just released A Work in Progress, a three-volume cookbook, journal, and Instagram photo book covering his last year at NOMA.
The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook is another new favorite.
One of the most influential cookbooks is Nose to Tail by Fergus Henderson and is a great compilation of his three previous books.
I’m from the South so, naturally, I’m predisposed to love all foods that remind me of my grandmother, especially homemade biscuits. Who is kicking ass with cutting-edge regional food right now? What is your favorite food city in the U.S.?
I love Justin Severino in Pittsburgh and Bryce Gilmore at Barly Swine in Austin. They are preserving their heritage of traditional food, but making waves and really innovating at the same time. It’s modern American, but with this cultural heritage and connection.
Ooof. Favorite food city? I’d have to say Austin right now. There’s such a great mix between fine dining and street food. Also really great Latin food. That’s our last city on the tour this year, and I can’t wait. I also think London is a dynamic city with so many cultural influences. I’m excited that MASH will be in London in July.
Our next issue will focus on the theme “Hustle”—making ends meet, side jobs, being on the grind, turning tricks, whatever you’d like to call it. When you think about your experience with hustling, what comes to mind? Do you have any poignant moments when you were on on an insane grind? What was that like?
Oh yeah. I mean, I think in terms of being an entrepreneur and starting my business Strada Pasta, a pop-up dinner series in Philadelphia, I really went through that. MASH is a great example too—we are always in a new space in a new kitchen. In Stockholm we were cooking in an old nuclear reactor, without a real kitchen. I was with students who had never cooked before, and we pulled off a really exciting and riveting dinner. There is also an extreme amount of work and effort that goes into pulling off a Mash tour—it’s definitely a collaborative effort to hustle and pull things off successfully.
Last question. What is the sexiest meal you’ve ever made and can we have the recipe?
Oysters and Sorachi Ace, our Farmhouse Saison. I don’t think it gets much sexier. I also worked in Italy on a few aphrodisiac dinners. But trust me, it doesn’t get any better than oysters and Sorachi Ace.
For more photos of Brooklyn Brewery’s adventures check out the MASH Tumblr.