While going to Lakewood High School in Odessa, Dave Ogren, the executive chef of Jim Brady’s Detroit (don’t let the name mislead you … it’s actually in Royal Oak) got a job as a caddy at a golf club in nearby East Lansing.
When things were slow on the golf course, he was asked to help out in the kitchen.
“That’s where I got exposed to kitchens and I thought it was fun,” the Rochester resident says.
That job was followed by a stint at Pagano’s, a restaurant in nearby Caledonia, where Ogren, 32, says he “got exposed to real cooking.”
The owner, Joe Pagano, was an old-school Italian guy who was also a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Ogren said Pagano was the reason that he ended up going to the cooking school.
After getting his associate degree from the CIA in 2004, Ogren moved to Boston where he worked as a sous chef, first at the Turner Fisheries restaurant in the Westin Hotel and then at a restaurant called Aquitaine. He then worked as an executive chef at the Commons Hotel on Cape Cod. That seasonal job gave him the opportunity to spend the winter working at iconic chef Thomas Keller’s French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, California.
“It was a totally humbling experience,” he says. “I thought I knew everything until I got there and was put in my place. I was very low on the totem pole … pretty much the whipping boy, but it was worth it. Working in ‘chef heaven’ at one of the best restaurants in the country was an incredible experience.”
After stints at a few different restaurants in Manhattan, Ogren decided to move back to Grand Rapids to be close to his family. After working for two years as corporate chef for Barfly Ventures (owners of HopCat breweries), Ogren became the corporate executive chef for Meritage Hospitality, the parent company of Twisted Rooster restaurants. And that is where he became acquainted with that company’s director of operations, Tom Brady, the co-owner of Jim Brady’s Detroit.
Ogren lives with his dad in Rochester and says he cooks at home whenever he can for friends and family.
“I do a taco night pretty often,” he says. “And I think brunch parties with mimosas, bloody mary’s and a couple of egg dishes are a lot of fun. It’s a great way to start a Sunday.”
Crispy Hash Browns
5 russet potatoes
1 white onion, thinly sliced (about 1/8 inch thick)
1 cup cornstarch
Kosher or sea salt to taste
Pepper to taste
3/4 cup canola oil
Fill a pot with salted water and bring it to a boil. While the water is coming to a boil, peel the potatoes. Then boil the potatoes until just barely cooked. The flesh should be very firm. (Do not cook them to the point of falling apart; you want the potato to shred, not smash.)
Cool the potatoes in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, so they are easy to handle. (Cooling them for several hours or overnight is best.)
Shred the cooled potatoes and the onion on a cheese grater, using the largest-sized grate. Evenly coat the pieces in cornstarch using your fingers to separate pieces.
Pour the canola oil in a frying pan until it is 1/4 inch deep and hot, but not smoking. Put a batch of the potato and onion mixture into the pan, making an even layer. (It should “sizzle” when the mixture hits the oil.) Do not move the mixture around. Wait several minutes for a golden brown crust to develop. Then using a spatula, flip the potato and onion mixture and brown the other side. (Be sure to control your heat to not darken the potatoes too quickly.) Then, using your spatula, keep the hash browns separate in the pan so there are no pockets of uncooked potato or cornstarch. When nicely browned on both sides, drain on paper towels. Repeat this step several more times, depending on the size of the pan, until all the onions and potatoes have been browned. Then either serve immediately or keep them warm in a 175 degree oven for up to 30 minutes. Makes 4 servings.
Per serving: 622 calories; 35 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 51 percent calories from fat); 76 g carbohydrates; 4 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 200 mg sodium; 4 g protein; 5 g fiber.
Egg, Spicy Sausage and Gravy Bake
1 12-ounce tube of buttermilk refrigerated biscuits
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups cheddar or pepper jack cheese
1 pound spicy breakfast sausage
4 tablespoon all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
Kosher or sea salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon jalapenos, finely chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon butter (to coat the baking dish)
Cut each biscuit into quarters. Set aside.
In a bowl, whip the eggs with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper and set aside.
Using your fingers, pull the sausage apart into small pieces and place them into a saucepan on medium-high heat. Brown the sausage. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of flour over the sausage and stir until all of the flour has been absorbed into the fat from the sausage. Slowly whisk in the 2 cups of milk and bring to a boil. Once thick, add the salt, pepper and chopped jalapeños. Set aside
Put the quartered biscuits in a greased 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Top with the egg mixture and the cheese, then pour the sausage gravy over all and bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes, until the eggs on the bottom and the biscuits are cooked. Makes 8 servings.
Per serving: 482 calories; 31 g fat (12 g saturated fat; 58 percent calories from fat); 27 g carbohydrates; 7 g sugar; 252 mg cholesterol; 1,134 mg sodium; 24 g protein; 0.5 g fiber.
Individual Leftover Mac and Cheese Omelets
8-inch nonstick pan
1/2 cup leftover mac and cheese from your favorite restaurant. (Try different variations, like the Mainstreet Mac we serve at the restaurant that has smoked chicken, peas, asparagus and grape tomatoes)
4 pieces of cooked bacon cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese (or any other kind of cheese you like)
1 tablespoon whole butter
Kosher salt to taste
White pepper to taste
Fresh chives, diced fine
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Heat the mac and cheese in a covered saucepot and keep warm. (You might need a splash of milk to keep it from drying out.)
Vigorously whisk the eggs in a bowl with a wire whisk until foamy. (You can also put them into a blender to make the omelette super puffy.) Season the eggs with salt and pepper
Place butter in the pan over medium high heat and let it melt and start to bubble. (You do not want the butter to change color or burn, so watch and control your heat.)
Pour the eggs into the middle of the pan, pushing the butter to the outer edges and coating the pan.
Next, using a rubber spatula, stir the eggs in a circular motion, making sure to scrape the cooked egg from the bottom and sides of the pan. Do this three times. The eggs should still be very moist and just above runny.
Place the warmed mac and cheese, the bacon and the shredded cheese on one half of the omelette. Then place the pan into a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes. When the eggs come out of the oven, use a rubber spatula to go underneath the unfilled side and fold it over the filled side. Makes 1 serving.
Tip: Before serving, warm your plates in the oven. Cold plates suck the heat out of food, especially eggs. Nobody likes cold eggs!
Per serving: 846 calories; 59 g fat (26 g saturated fat; 63 percent calories from fat); 29 g carbohydrates; 5 g sugar; 672 mg cholesterol; 1,808 mg sodium; 47 g protein; 1 g fiber.