Thursday, May 5, 2016

In the kitchen with Peter Brave

Posted By and on Thu, May 5, 2016 at 9:34 AM

click to enlarge Peter Brave extols the virtue of local potatoes fried in butter. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • Peter Brave extols the virtue of local potatoes fried in butter.

"We'll be open 27 years in June," says chef Peter Brave as he smashes the lovely golden flesh of a boiled potato with the underside of a pie pan. "I've seen a lot of places come and go." Brave makes another, more oblique, reference to his longevity in Little Rock's high-end dining scene as he slips that same potato into a skillet filled with foaming melted butter: "This pan is probably older than some of my employees."

Watching Brave move around the various prep and cooking areas of his cleverly named Brave New Restaurant, I feel a bit like how I imagine the arcade kids must have when Tommy stepped up and dropped a quarter for some pinball. He calls out directions to his line cooks, supervises the examination and rotation of produce—and still finds time to put together two lovely dishes for photographer Brian Chilson and me to shoot for Arkansas Food & Farm. He's a mixture of kinetic energy and laid back humor wrapped around a core philosophy that's determined, focused and exacting in its attention to detail. Peter Brave knows he can cook. And he thinks you deserve something good to eat.
click to enlarge Peter Brave slices baby heirloom beets from Armstead Farms in Jerusalem. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • Peter Brave slices baby heirloom beets from Armstead Farms in Jerusalem.

A native of Little Rock, Brave graduated from Central High. Soon after, he moved to San Francisco with plans to attend culinary school—and folks who swear by Brave New Restaurant dishes like sausage-stuffed quail may be surprised to know those plans didn't come to fruition. Instead, the nascent chef spent time working at restaurants and hotels around the Bay area, learning his trade on the job in one of the country's most elite dining regions.

Brave returned to Little Rock in 1985 to become the chef at the Capital Hotel, a kitchen in which many of Arkansas' top chefs have spent time. “My goal with working there was always to one day have my own place,” he says. A few years later, he realized that dream, first in Brave New Restaurant's original location off Old Cantrell Road, then in a spacious riverfront office park location which provides diners with spectacular views of the Arkansas River.

"It's still fun," Brave says of restaurant work, and as his knife reduces whole vegetables to even, uniform slices, it's clear the chef hasn't lost his touch after more than three decades in the kitchen. Aside from cooking, Brave talks of his other passions—biking, painting, and most recently, a reclaimed wood-and-metal table project which has occupied much of his free time. He has time for things like that now, although it hasn't always the case, and he gives gives a lot of  credit to the team he has built, starting with his sous-chef Janice and several managers. “They provide the stability and consistency I need to do what we do around here, and that is Brave New Restaurant's identity,” he says.
click to enlarge Peter Brave treats crisp red and green romaine lettuce like works of art. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • Peter Brave treats crisp red and green romaine lettuce like works of art.

As a longtime veteran who has seen food trends come and go, the current "farm to table" boom in Arkansas seems to be a source of both pride and amusement to Brave. "Sometimes, [chefs] act like we're reinventing the wheel," he says. "Years ago, before refrigeration or mass transit, everything was local—and people still wanted things to be delicious. If the ingredient is fresh and of a good quality, my job is easy—I just have to treat it right and not overdo it." Brave New Restaurant has been sourcing many of its ingredients locally for much of its time in business. "How great is it to eat lettuce or radishes that were still in the ground that morning?" he says.

Suddenly, he looks up, cocks his head, and disappears from the prep table where he has been waxing poetic about Victorian dining habits while floating a luxurious strawberry shortcake on a pool of vanilla-flecked crème Anglaise. After a few moments, he reappears, clutching several sprigs of mint in one hand and a bunch of basil leaves in the other. "We grow a lot of herbs right out on the patio," he says with a smile. "I just thought our shortcake could use a sprig of mint." And as the sharp fragrance of fresh herbs mixes with the sweet aroma of Arkansas strawberries, it's clear the chef knows best.

For a more in-depth look at the ingredients Brave New Restaurant sources from local farmers—and for a copy of that shortcake recipe—pick up the Spring Harvest Issue of Arkansas Food & Farm magazine, available May 15.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Speaking of...

Related Locations

Comments (4)

Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

More by Michael Roberts

  • Little Rock Margarita Festival is coming May 4

    Cinco de Mayo. The holiday in which tequila is consumed in the United States in honor of a Mexican holiday that is not as widely celebrated in Mexico.
    • Mar 10, 2017
  • Arkansas Times Recommends: Indian Grocers, nerdcore documentaries, "Pepe the Frog" explainers, Anne Carson and more

    Arkansas Times Recommends is a series in which Times staff members (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlight things we've been enjoying this week.
    • Oct 21, 2016
  • Arkansas Times Recommends: The Think Edition

    Arkansas Times Recommends is a series in which Times staff members (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlight things we've been enjoying this week. In anticipation of Arkansas Times' Festival of Ideas this Saturday at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, we recommend things that make us think.
    • Sep 23, 2016
  • More »

More by Lisa Armstrong

Readers also liked…

  • A sneak preview of Fourquarter Bar in Argenta

    A look at Fourquarter Bar in Argenta, brought to you by the folks behind Midtown Billiards. Beer, barbecue and killer cocktails abound!
    • Feb 23, 2016
  • Coming Monday: Little Rock Black Restaurant Week

    MoTown Monday is Ceci's Chicken and Waffles. Tasty Tuesday is Sims BBQ and Brewster's Soul Food Cafe. Wing Wednesday is Chicken King and Chicken Wangs. Soul Food Thursday is Lindsey's BBQ and Hospitality House and Food Truck Festival Friday is @station801. It's the first Black Restaurant Week.
    • Mar 8, 2017

Most Shared

  • Conspiracy theorists

    Back in 2000, I interviewed Rev. Jerry Falwell on camera in connection with a documentary film of "The Hunting of the President," which Joe Conason and I wrote.
  • The health of a hospital

    The Medicaid expansion helped Baxter County Regional Medical Center survive and thrive, but a federal repeal bill threatens to imperil it and its patients.
  • Virgil, quick come see

    There goes the Robert E. Lee. But the sentiment that built the monument? It's far from gone.
  • Real reform

    Arkansas voters, once perversely skeptical of complicated ballot issues like constitutional amendments, have become almost comical Pollyannas, ratifying the most shocking laws.
  • That modern mercantile: The bARn

    The bARn Mercantile — "the general store for the not so general," its slogan says — will open in the space formerly occupied by Ten Thousand Villages at 301A President Clinton Ave.

Visit Arkansas

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Underutilized waterway is a hidden gem in urban Little Rock

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation