chef interview: Marc Krampe
chef MARC KRAMPE
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Interview by Katie Culbert
Photography by Denny Culbert
After a long lunch, we sat at a corner booth inside Social and talked to Marc about living in Austin, growing up in a McDonald’s family, and the power that is Charlie Goodson.
Most of my kids will eat anything. They go through phases. Maddy likes to eat weird stuff just because it’s weird…..because I eat it. Ashlyn, she loves chicken feet. When we go to a Dim Sum restaurant, she will get two orders…..like a pound of chicken feet.
I try to get my kids to eat fearlessly. We didn’t give them too much baby food. Once they could chew, we would go to Thai restaurants and give them curry with tofu. We would go to Ethiopian restaurants or Korean restaurants. In other countries, they’re not feeding their kids baby food. Babies eat what their parents eat or a blended up version. We started giving them choices at an early age. So I think that’s why they will try everything.
All my memories are tied to food. I remember eating escargot when I was little. That sticks out in my mind for some reason. I loved it. I always ate weird stuff. I was a good eater. I ate a lot. I ate a lot of McDonald’s too, but it was free and that’s why. And I could show up to parties with two bags of McDonald’s and get free beer in high school.
My dad used to cook when I was little. He would make carbonara pasta and stroganoff because he’s German. My grandmother was French and Native American so she cooked a lot of French dishes…..a lot of braised stuff.
People have trouble with the proper use of salt.
A really cool ingredient that I love that can also be a main protein or main dish is uni or sea urchin. You can make sauces with it. You can cure it. I haven’t seen it here, but I would love to get it. You can make the most amazing butter sauce for pasta with uni. It tastes like the ocean.
Charlie Goodson has this wealth of knowledge from being in the industry so long. You can never stop learning from him. Everything he does, the way he thinks about the numbers, the way he treats his people. At Charley G’s, it’s like a family over there. People love to work there. The whole experience is great because of Charlie.
I remember going to Charley G’s when I was little, and I would see Charlie walking around in a suit. I would tell my dad I want to be the guy who walks around in the suit in restaurants when I’m older.
Charlie eats more than me. He eats like a teenager. He ate the brick chicken today for lunch. Other days he will get the burger. When we went to Austin to research gastropubs and my vision of Social, we would go to 8 restaurants in a day and he’d go to town the whole time. The next morning he would get up, run, exercise, shower, and be in the lobby drinking coffee. I would just be getting up and still hurting from the night before.
I’ve been to cities all over the country and I’ve loved them all, but there is something about Austin that made me feel like I was home. I like the way people treat each other in Austin. Very liberal over there, which doesn’t fly in a lot of Southern areas. It’s weird. Austin is its own little island.
I didn’t realize I wanted to cook at first. I was just working in restaurants while I was in college. I slowly realized I was good at it, and I hated college, so I said screw it. I dropped out and went to culinary school. I figured I’m already doing it so I might as well make a living out of it.
I read a lot of chef blogs and Lucky Peach and cookbooks and I get 20 emails a day just about chef stuff. I subscribe to blogs from different cities like Los Angeles and New York and all over the place so I can see what other parts of the country are doing. I try to figure out how I can pull that off here or how I can make it work so people will be receptive to it.
I met my wife Jennifer a year after I moved to Austin. The first time we met, I had a suit on. I was looking good. I was 19. She was 22 at the time. The next time I saw her, I asked her out on a date. I took her out to a concert. She thought I was 30.
If farmers bring stuff to my back door, I buy it. I’ll use it for specials. I try to use as much possible.
When we come out with a new menu, I just start testing. I’m constantly doing that. That’s why I’m glad I have Bill Schwanz, because I wouldn’t know what to do without him. He runs the kitchen for me and does an awesome job. He’s the backbone back there.
There was a period where I tried to get out of the restaurant scene. My first job ever was washing dishes and all I knew was restaurants. I needed to try something different. I started working for AT&T Wireless. I thought….man, they make twice as much as I do an hour and sit on their asses all day…I’m going to try that out. It sucked. Yeah, after my stint in the regular world, I went back to cooking.
When I moved back here, I was managing McDonalds just to pay the bills. And I did learn a lot as far as managing people, food costs, and systems.
There’s great food all over the place now. I love finding those little hole in the wall places that no one knows about.
If I could go anywhere and have a meal right now, I would go to Japan and find a little ramen shop and I have a nice, traditional bowl of ramen. There’s something about noodles and beautifully made broth. A beautiful ramen dish makes you smile. I love Japanese culture for the pride they take in what they do.
I love children’s food. There’s nothing better than PB & J and milk.
Restaurant life is great. I love the people. I love the constant, ever evolving environment that it is.