5 Qs: Jeffrey Brana
After years of working at Norman's Restaurant, Chef Jeffrey Brana and his wife Anna have opened a place of their own, Restaurant Brana, in Coral Gables (see this week's Cafe review). Riptide spoke with Jeffrey by phone and asked him a few questions about subjects not covered in the review.
You're of Cuban, Spanish, and Welsh descent. Can you describe for us what a good Latino-Welsh fusion dish might be like?
(laughs). I don't know any of that. My family is from Asturias, Spain, which is Celtic in nature. The Celtic cuisine sort of fused with Spanish cooking by itself hundreds of years ago.
In terms of planning for Restaurant Brana, what didn't you see coming?
You always anticipate for things to happen, but some things absolutely positively surprise you anyway. You can have a working ice machine for the entire time that you go to open, and two weeks after you open the ice machine will break down. It's definitely those little things that can be frustrating.
What effect has the pressures of opening a business and working together with your wife had on your relationship?
We were both thinking that we might butt heads on a couple of things, but it's been just the opposite. We're both going through the same things as first-time business owners together so we have someone to fall back on. That's a very nice feeling for both of us, and gives us strength knowing we have each others' support.
If you were dining at Restaurant Brana, what would you order?
The seasonal tasting menu, because it allows you to sit back and put yourself in the chef's hands. You don't have to go "Should I have this? Should I have that?". We're very accommodating with our tasting menu -- we even did one for a vegan the other night. But we're shying away from signature dishes. The garlic soup and shrimp with trout roe have been great for us this season, but when we change the menu for next season (in a couple of weeks) those dishes will come off. And we're fine with that.
Who would be the most important person in the kitchen besides yourself?
My dishwasher. He's the backbone. But everyone in the kitchen puts in really long hours. They all work every shift -- and in a lunch/dinnner operation like ours, that's a lot of work. I owe everything we've achieved up to this point to them and the front-of-house staff. I couldn't ask for better people to be with.-Lee Klein