Some chefs might be intimidated by the idea of becoming the first non-relative to take over the kitchen at a third-generation, family-owned restaurant, but Jason Quinlan is up for the challenge.
In October, Quinlan took over as executive chef at Der Braumeister, the 38-year-old German mainstay in West Park. His predecessor, Linda Hoertz — daughter of the founding owners and mother of current owner Jenn Wirtz — had manned the kitchen since 1985. Now, Hoertz has formally handed over the reins to the kitchen and is working closely with Quinlan as he modernizes existing dishes and creates new ones.
“She’d never had someone to bounce ideas off of and collaborate with, and for a long time, I didn’t either,” says Quinlan, who most recently worked as the executive chef of Marigold Catering. “Now, she’ll explain how she would do a dish, then I’ll add a little touch to elevate it. It all just works.” We go inside Quinlan’s background, what changes you might see and which dishes are just too good to mess with.
He’s a classically trained French chef
A graduate of the Scottsdale Culinary Institute, Quinlan is classically trained in French techniques and was surprised to find how well they lend themselves to German cooking. “Germany isn’t far from France, so a lot of the techniques are the same, just with different flavors,” he says. “It’s tons of onions, mustard and caraway seeds instead of tons of butter and heavy cream.” He compares the French roulade — a dish of stuffed, rolled meat — to the traditional German rouladen, a longtime menu staple that’s getting an upgrade with a bed of celery root puree, roasted Brussels sprouts, shaved pickles, onions and mustard.
He’s reading up on traditional German recipes
Quinlan is working his way through traditional German cookbooks from Hoertz and Wirtz, including some written entirely in German, to come up with new dishes to add to Der Braumeister’s seasonally rotating menu. He’s got his eye on cabbage rolls with mustard sauce and gershmorter, a pork roast stuffed with onions, caraway seeds and garlic. For now, though, he’s just tweaking and improving the restaurant’s most beloved dishes. “I can’t come in here with their 35-plus-year customer base and be the new guy who blows up the menu,” Quinlan says.
He knows certain classics are off-limits
He’s slightly reworked the traditional gravy recipe, steeping it in thyme for a bit of extra flavor, and he may experiment with serving a consistent, composed schnitzel dish instead of maintaining the restaurant’s current build-your-own format. At least one dish, though, is likely to stay exactly as-is: “The goulash isn’t going anywhere,” Quinlan says. “I’m definitely not going to mess with that.”