Mar 26, 2011

5 Questions With Josh Eans

To many of us, the simple hamburger is a treasure. Something held near and dear to the heart. My heart, I believe, is enveloped in two sesame seed buns and layered with lettuce, pickles, cheese and a couple slabs of bacon.

And it’s emotional ties like this that create such staunch opinions about the ideal burger. Every time I mention Blanc Burgers + Bottles in the office, for instance, ears perk up and debate ensues. Everyone has a favorite, everyone has a philosophy and everyone believes, deep down, that they are RIGHT.

It was this obvious truth that led me to my next 5 Questions candidate, chef Josh Eans of Blanc. Chef Eans has brought to life in KC a highly discussed gourmet burger concept that has spawned a lot of the burger banter in which I’ve taken part. With a culinary degree and background in five star dining in Atlanta, work at the lauded (but now closed) 40 Sardines and gig as head chef for The Drop, his burgers represent the fancy, high end burger concept that seems to polarize we, the unofficial burger gourmands of Kansas City. I asked Chef Eans about his burger philosophy and much more, to get a firsthand view of what’s behind his chef-driven burgers at Blanc.

Eans' twitter photo.
There seems to be a rift growing in "best burger" philosophies: the classic greasy gut bomb (Flea, Town Topic, Corner Cocktail) versus the gourmet, like yours. Is one better than the other or are they different foods altogether?
I don't think you can say one is better than the other. It all comes down to personal taste and preference. One day you want a fancypants burger and a Belgian beer, while the next you are craving a greasy, juicy burger wrapped in paper.

You serve a lot of local products… Farm to Market buns, Soda Vie, Shatto milkshakes, Boulevard beers, namely. What other local products do you use that area locavores would be pleased to know about but may not?
All of the spices/seasonings we use come from the Herb Co. on Southwest Blvd. They simply have the best stuff. We've developed special blends they make only for us. We use Kurlbaum's heirloom tomatoes in the summer as an option on the burgers. Kneaded Specialties in Lee's Summit provides us with gluten-free hamburger buns. A guy from Lawrence is producing beautiful microgreens that we have been playing around with. Lastly, Erin Brown from Dolce Baking Co. (sweetest girl in town), is going to start producing seasonal fruit pies for us that we will add to the menu when we update it next month.

What's your favorite vegetable and how do you like it prepared?
That's a hard one. I think it changes seasonally. I really enjoy roasted brussels sprouts with a little olive oil, salt + pepper and maybe bacon for good measure. But they have to have a nice char on them - I really enjoy caramelized flavors. But, going into spring, I can't wait for some beautiful asparagus to throw on a charcoal grill and dress with some olive oil and lemon or some wild ramps that I can pickle.

The special burger last time I was in was a rendition
of the Inside-Out burger, stuffed with Mac n Cheese
instead of Blue Cheese. It worked!
Blanc is expanding. What's the long term vision for growth? Sky's the limit? Or is there a ceiling for how many could be opened?
Anything can happen long term. Right now there is a definite ceiling - we have 3 restaurants in 3 states. At the moment, we are most concerned with what's happening inside the four walls of each place, rather than what's beyond them. Blanc is not a cookie-cutter concept, either. We put a lot of thought into it. When we opened up our Omaha store, we did a ton of research to find the best local products there and make it work for that market. It's great that we are able to create a 'local' flavor.

The chain-phobic of us fear decreased quality with increased quantity. Should we worry about our favorite local Blanc outpost going downhill? Who not?
There is no need to worry, I myself am "chain-phobic". We are dedicated to quality, that is all we are focusing on right now. This year we are looking at how we can continue to raise the bar and do things better and better. We will be rolling out a new menu next month with some exciting changes as well as finding new ways to invest in our beer program. This will be an exciting year for us.

*Bonus Question: How long has the mustache been in your life? What percentage of men would look better with a mustache?
Ahh, the mustache. It's the reason we have a second son. I've had it for 5 months or so. It completes me. All men need one - call it the Tom Selleck equation. Everyone worries about the creepy factor, but there was a time not long ago that it was part of a very distinguished look. What happened? It's not the mustache's fault.

1 comment:

lesley lifting life said...

I have yet to go to Blanc, and I feel slightly deprived because of it!

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