Formerly of Bonterra Dining and Wine Room and Las Ramblas, Blake Hartwick is currently rustling things up as the executive chef at Andrew Blair's. He's been in the business of food since he was a teenager, when he started working for his dad's catering company in New York. Recently, Hartwick has worked with Sous Chef Marc Jacksina (formerly of Lulu) to start serving brunch on Sundays. According to Hartwick, the signature brunch item seems to be "MoFo Eggs Benedict" — an English muffin with fried green tomato, poached eggs and house-made breakfast sausage with hollandaise. Yum!
Creative Loafing: What are your thoughts about the food industry?
Blake Hartwick: Well, if you're in this business and you don't like cooking, you're not gonna last long. You really have to enjoy working 13- to 14-hour days. If you're unhappy with that, it's gonna show in whatever you're working on that comes out of the kitchen. If you've got a mad guy in the kitchen screaming at the servers all the time, the servers are gonna show that on their face. But it's a unique business -- when you make friends in this business, you keep those friends. They're definitely good to have, especially in this economy; we look out for each other, support one another.
Do you have a favorite item on Andrew Blair's menu?
As far as one particular item, I would say our short ribs [dish] is one of my favorites. It's probably one of our signature dishes. It's been on the menu since I started here. It's slow-braised short ribs served with fried oysters and cream spinach and whipped potatoes. We finish with a veal jus and béarnaise on top of the oysters.
Do you have any quirks when it comes to working in the kitchen?
I'm used to having an open kitchen; like at Las Ramblas, we had an open line. There was a bar right next to the kitchen -- same at Bonterra. Here, it's a closed kitchen. So I miss being able to see my friends come in. So I tell all my friends that come in to stick their head through the door and say "hey." That's my biggest thing -- y'all give me a holler and let me know you're here.