On a visit to Huntsville, Alabama, I had the opportunity to try Grille 29 and interview Chriss McDonald.
Maralyn: When did you get interested in cooking?
Chef Chris: I started taking an interest in cooking at about 8 years old. My Grandmother was the “cafeteria lady” in my grade school. I remember being amazed at all of the equipment and tools and how organized it was. I spent a good bit of time there and always felt comfortable. She was a great cook and an even better baker. She never used recipes and pulled off some pretty impressive baked goods. She had a love for cooking and feeding people. When I turned 13 years old I started washing dishes in a restaurant walking distance from my house. I quickly worked my way onto “the line” and worked there until I got accepted to Culinary School.
Maralyn: Where was your first job after culinary school?
Chef Chris: My first Job out of Culinary School was at Tavern on the Green in New York City. When the Sous Chef left to open Le Bernardin he took a few of the guys that made things happen with him. I spent the next 4 years learning everything I could about cooking French food. I learned to respect the ingredients and leave them better than I found them. I learned how to be disciplined and what it means to have a sense of urgency. I love the excitement of a well run kitchen.
Maralyn: If you had to pick a favorite cooking utensil, what would you pick?
Chef Chris: My favorite cooking utensil would be the Japanese Mandolin . If I could pick two, my second would be a chinois. The mandoline because it really helps to make your vegetable cuts and garnishes more precise and takes your food to the next level. The chinois lets you add subtle flavors to things and strain your sauces silky smooth.
Maralyn: Do you have any advice for aspiring chefs?
Chef David: My advice to anybody wanting to be a Chef is to be prepared to make cooking and feeding people your life. It takes many years of hard work to become a chef and about 5 minutes to look like one.
Maralyn: What is your favorite station to work?
Chef David: My favorite station in a restaurant is expediter. You get to pull everything together,set the tone of service, watch quality control and put the finishing touches on the plate. you are the last person to see the food before it gets to our guest. You have to know how to work every station to be a good expediter.
Maralyn: Are you heavily involved in using local produce?
Chef David: I am an avid gardener and have a great relationship with all of our farmers. I use local organic produce whenever I can. I use local farmers to supply our heirloom tomatoes. One of our farmers has 500 tomato plants out this year and 25 different varieties.
Maralyn: Do you have a favorite food group?
Chef Chris Grille 29 is a steak house, but we love to cook fish. I am always looking for whats in season. I prefer to use fish from the North East and get most of my fish delivered by truck 24 to 36 hours out of the water. The water is cold most of the year and has many of the fish and shellfish that are so revered in France. We get fish delivered every day of the week except Sunday and I send it back if its not up to our standards. when people know your standards are high they make sure you get the best of what they have.
Maralyn: Thank you chef, we look forward to your recipe.
Grille 29 Hunan Style Redfish
One Acadian Redfish apx 1.5 # (cleaned and scaled)
6oz seasoned rice flour
10 thin slices raw ginger
A pinch of pickled ginger and scallion julienne to garnish
For the hunan sauce:
1 oz sesame oil
1 oz chopped garlic
2 oz ginger scraps
Small bunch cilantro
¼ cup Scallion trimmings
1 Tbs chili garlic sauce
1 pt teriyaki sauce
1 Tbs rice wine vinegar
Saute the vegetables in sesame oil until soft. Add the rice wine vinegar and the teriyaki sauce and strain.
Used as a dipping sauce for the fried redfish. garnish with sesame green beans and sticky rice. Julienne scallions and a pinch of pickled ginger.
1# rice flour
2 Tbs fine salt
1 Tbs garlic powder
1 Tbs white pepper
1 cup corn starch
Hunan Redfish Procedure
Start with a 1.5 pound redfish.
Score with a knife 5 slices on each side of the fish and insert slices of raw ginger into each score mark.
Flour well and fry at 350 degrees until just cooked at the bone.
Place on the plate with sesame green beans and sticky rice.
Pour 2 oz sauce over the fish and 2 oz in a side bowl for dipping.
Board Member, Co-Chair Conference & Media Trip Committee, Past President
Freelance Lifestyle Journalist
Follow me: @maralynhill