Luca Brunelle is the executive chef for The Gideon Putnam in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. An industry veteran and a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, he started a year ago at Delaware North, a foodservice management company headquartered in Buffalo, N.Y., that manages more than 180 venues in the U.S. and abroad.
At Putnam’s Restaurant & Bar, Brunelle serves wide-ranging menus, with items that showcase creativity and comfort in one. His Nuclear Mac & Cheese, for example, stars habanero three cheese and a fiery Cheetos crust, as well as a Texas Hanger Steak, chargrilled and served with ranch frites, brown sugar cassoulet, smashed Brussels sprouts, “tumbleweed” onions and chile butter. We asked Brunelle to share his favorite high-impact ingredients.
It’s more complex, smoother and more flavorful than the classic version. I incorporate tamarind and other Asian flavors to complement my Japanese fried chicken and house-ground tuna burger at Putnam’s Restaurant.
The sheer chef glee of seasonal produce! My sous chef foraged some for me in late April, so I was thinking pesto, maybe ramp butter with onion-herb sourdough—or pickled for later enjoyment after the season abruptly ends.
The waiting is the hardest part, but they’re so worth it. The flavor is intense—salty, bitter, sweet—and we use the brine as one of the flavoring components in our house-marinated olives. Preserved lemons are a heavenly lemony addition to our chicken shawarma’s tahini yogurt sauce.
Richer than sour cream, crème fraîche is a versatile ingredient that adds luxuriousness and depth to a dish or as an accoutrement. We also create cultured butter using crème fraîche as a base, serving it with sourdough bread.
Pickling is one of the easiest ways to pack a flavorful punch and preserve vegetables—so many variations and combinations. We do our own pickles—kimchi, onions, and marinated olives—in-house at our restaurant.