Invite me out to enjoy two out of five of my favorite things--FOOD & ART and I am there. Last Wednesday, I took a seat at the dinner table of Cafe Brooks by Paradox for a intimate conversation with chef Jimmy Gentry and owner Alia Hogan. Now you know I also indulged dinner as well.
Thank you all for having me and sitting down to talk for a bit. The cafe' is beautiful. I love the decor and the idea that the art will rotate out as the museum installations and exhibits change. It's a pretty cool concept.
WHAT ARE PERSPECTIVE ROLES IN THE CAFE'?
Alia: Jimmy and I are both owners. I'm the general manager. I bring a lot of different perspectives. I do have a background in culinary. I've cooked since I was 7. I think I've worked in every aspect of the industry. I also have a degree in accounting and marketing. So roles, I'd say how many hats do I wear.
Jimmy: I bring a completely different perspective. As I worked in the industry, I had a mentor tell me, You need to find someone who can either cook or do numbers. I'll use your terms, in an artist's mind, we just want to be creative, make things look and taste good. I make things look and taste good.
Alia: It's all about finding the balance. Sometimes I play devil's advocate. Not all the time or devil's advocate on the same thing. We're very raw with each other.
SO HOW LONG HAVE YOU GUYS KNOWN EACH OTHER? HOW DID THIS RELATIONSHIP START?
Alia : Hmmmm. We're actually together. We're a couple.
Jim: Literally laughing out loud.
Alia : Uh, we've been together almost 10 years now.
HOW DO YOU BALANCE WORK AND LIFE? IS THERE REALLY A NEED TO BALANCE? WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE FOR YOU GUYS?
Alia & Jim ( in unison ) : We don't bring our home life to work. Work is work. We take work home but we don't bring home to work.
SO, IF WE TALK ABOUT THE MENU AT THE RESTAURANT, WHAT WAS YOUR SOURCE OF INSPIRATION WHEN BUILDING THE MENU?
Alia : Everything always has to have our unique spin on it. It has to be unique. That's how we came up with our name. You know Paradox is not what you think it's going to be. Even if you see turkey and cheese, it's not going to be the typical turkey and cheese. If we serve chicken tenders, it's going to be plated extraordinarily.
Jimmy : We make the bread. We source meat locally. You know, we are very conscious about the types of products. We get more locally sourced meat that actually comes from Claybrook Farms, right in this area. So we're serving meat naturally not overweight and pushed with hormones antibiotics. We serve seasonal and locally sourced vegetables. The menu will change as the season changes. We see what's growing now and build the menu around what's in our local markets. The local community and being a small business is important to us.
HOW DO YOU ALL STAY INSPIRED?
Jimmy: We go out to eat a lot. We're always looking at food.
DO YOU GUYS WATCH FOOD SHOWS OR DOCUMENTARIES? HAVE YOU SEEN CHEF'S TABLE?
Jimmy: Yes, I'm watching Chef's Table France. I'm also watching Wild Chef with Martin Picard. Do you know of him? He's a culinary radical and definitely found his niche'.
WHAT'S YOUR NICHE'?
Jimmy: CREATIVE! I make things look elegant and pretty. It's unique.
Alia : We want everything to be extraordinary! Whether in the way it tastes or the presentation. Our presentation is the biggest thing. You see with your eyes. Everything is visual. Now, that doesn't mean we'll sacrifice taste for presentation and vice versa. We LOVE to make beautiful food--that tastes good. Equally as good.
WHAT IS ONE DISH YOU WOULD WANT GUESTS TO HAVE? WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE? WHAT WOULD YOU LOVE FOR THEM TO TRY?
Alia: OHHHHHH it wouldn't be just one. We'd have to walk them down the menu. Let's give them a tour lol. The Rueben----
Jimmy: Honestly, the Caesar Salad is my favorite. It's not your typical Caesar Salad. You may look at me and say "Really a Caesar Salad. It's baby arugula--it's actually... You know what fish sauce is? Soooo What is fish sauce made out of? Pressed anchovies!!! What is the dressing of traditional caesar's made of ? It's an anchovy based emulsion. Instead of using a traditional way, we make a vinaigrette with the fish sauce. So,the flavor is there.You get a totally different flavor from the fish sauce than the traditional anchovy based dressing. We use deep fried croissants as croutons with fresh parmesan.
Alia: Next, we'll go to the Reuben. We love to do a play on things. So our Reuben, we do a Korean cabbage. It's not your traditional kimchi.
I SEE YOU HAVE RIBS. YOU KNOW PEOPLE IN MEMPHIS LOVE RIBS. WHAT MAKES YOUR RIBS DIFFERENT?
Jimmy : We use short ribs--BEEF. Marinated with Korean marinade and steam buns. TOTALLY DIFFERENT FLAVOR!!!!
Located off the Brooks Museum of Art's rotunda, Café Brooks by Paradox will offer a casual and family-friendly experience. "As we continue our centennial year celebration, we are excited to present Café Brooks as a more casual space for our visitors to enjoy during their visits to the museum,” said Executive Director Emily Ballew Neff, Ph.D. The grand opening of Café Brooks is Wednesday, January 18, in time for the opening of Brooks Outside: Intrude – one of the most highly acclaimed major public art installations in the world.
"We love our new Midtown location, the café gives us a chance to show our culinary art while experiencing the art of the museum," said Chef Gentry
The grand opening of Café Brooks was last Wednesday, January 18, justin time for the opening of Brooks Outside: Intrude – one of the most highly acclaimed major public art installations in the world. You should make it an Artists Date alone or enjoy a day at the museum and cafe with friends.
Please do yourself a favor and stop by Cafe Brooks by Paradox to see the talented, friendly and creative duo team of Chef Jimmy Gentry and Jessica Lambert & owner Alia Hogan and the entire staff. Everything on the menu is amazing!!! I ate so incredibly slow so that I could really enjoy literally every single bite. The Reuben was----like OH MY GOD---- INCREDIBLE. I didn't eat it all there because I wanted to privately enjoy it and allow my palate to scream out loud at home. Jimmy keeps his word with the promise of the Ceasar being the best like ever in life.
Gentry began his career in Memphis after completing his formal training at the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson and Wales in Charleston, South Carolina. Defining his skills in Mid-South restaurants and accepted the position of Executive Chef for Erling Jensen: The Restaurant – where he spent six years. Chef Gentry led the kitchen to being named for six consecutive “Best Restaurant” awards from publications such as Memphis Magazine, Memphis Flyer and The Commercial Appeal. These awards propelled the restaurant to present their cuisine at the renowned James Beard House in New York City.
Hogan and Gentry opened Paradox after seeing a need for a creative and innovative approach to catering. Since opening, Paradox has seen tremendous success both with clients looking for a truly unique catering experience and with media accolades. Paradox, known as one of the Mid-South's hottest boutique caterers, provides a customized experience with a unique menu for every event. They were recently named Memphis Magazine’s “2016 Face of Catering.” Learn more about them at here.