Bryan Yealy: Master Chef

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Entertainment,Food and Drink,Alexandra Greeley

Every so often, some super-charged person crosses your path. You may stop and think, "Wow. Such energy." You may say "wow" three or four times when you meet Bryan Yealy, corporate chef of the Capital Restaurants Group that brings you Old Glory, Neyla, Paolo's and J. Paul's, plus a few more entities. And, yes, Georgia Brown's, that famous Southern eatery on 15th Street NW -- Yealy is also its executive chef.

Overseeing all these kitchens, chefs and menus is a daunting task. And this Pennsylvania native is one guy who knows his job and does it well. And with his curiosity he digs into the basics about each ingredient he uses. Take porchetta (fatty Italian pork belly roast), for example. He tells of going to a meat wholesaler and buying porchetta, then studying what is the belly and how is it cooked: smoked or boiled? "I am never done learning," says this kitchen whiz kid.

When asked to name his specialty, all Yealy could answer is that he didn't know. "I want to know about everything," he says. "If I need to know what humus is, then I want to start with chickpeas from scratch."

In fact, if you are a true foodie, you'd probably want to spend a few hours -- maybe even days -- listening to Yealy's kitchen tales and gathering up some of his special recipes. After all, it sounds like he has seen and cooked it all, you realize, as he rushes back to the smoky kitchen of Old Glory, back where the hickory oven rests.

If you go
Georgia Brown's
» Where: 950 15th St. NW
» Info: 202-393-4499; gbrowns.com
» Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (brunch) and 5:30 to 10 p.m. (dinner) Sunday

His immense food passion began in his childhood, thanks to his mother's exemplary home cooking. "She is a down-home cook," he says, recalling how he watched his mom fry chicken and bake delicious fruit and other pies. (Yealy, who loves to play around with fried chicken recipes, concedes this: "I am loyal to Crystal Hot Sauce," his condiment of choice for his mom's crispy fried chicken.)

On top of this, his dad had always dreamed of being a chef. "From the time I went to culinary school [the Culinary Institute of America]," he says, "I wanted to make dad proud of me." Apparently, he has succeeded, confirms his mother.

As it turns out, Yealy has passed along his food/cooking passion to his daughter, Jess, who just graduated from the Culinary Institute. She is now working at Paolo's, recounts Yealy, who goes on to praise her caramel-filled chocolates. "She was just goofing around," he says. "And that meant a lot to me. ... Her attention to detail is what I forget."

A self-described workaholic, Yealy wraps it all up by saying he just loves food. "I love to cook, and I will never stop," he says. "But I want to inspire others. I am not old, but now my whole focus is on my staff. I have found the best of the best, and I am looking at the next generation of chefs." Well, chef Yealy, we hope they attain your level of excellence.

Q&A

What is your comfort food?

Yankee pot roast

Which is your favorite restaurant?

My wife and I had an anniversary dinner at Blue Duck Tavern

Do you have a favorite cookbook?

I have 4,000 cookbooks, but right now my favorite is Paul Bocuse.

What is your signature dish?

Fried chicken and collard greens

What's in your fridge?

Bananas, yogurt, truffle butter, butter, cheese, vegetables and herbs.

Recipe

Serves 4 to 6

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Marinade:

1 quart buttermilk

Juice from 2 lemons

8 cloves crushed garlic

1/4 cup Crystal Hot Sauce

1/2 oz fresh sage

1/2 oz fresh thyme

8 each scallion greens

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons brown mustard

1 tablespoon Coleman's ground mustard

3 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon black pepper

Chicken

Two 3-pound chickens cut into 8 pieces each

1 1/2 cups lard or more as needed

1 1/2 cups shortening or more as needed

Flour Dredge

4 cups Wondra flour

2 cups finely ground cornmeal

3 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon finely ground black pepper

1 tablespoon paprika

To make the marinade, mix the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Pour this mixture into a nonreactive pan or bowl, and marinate the chicken pieces for 24 hours. In the meantime, make the flour dredge by combining all the ingredients in a big bowl; set aside.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, squeezing of any excess marinade from chicken. Coat with dredge and lay on cookie sheet, let rest for 10 minutes. Heat the lard-shortening mix in a large cast-iron skillet to 325 degrees. Place chicken in pan, skin side down, and cook for 8 minutes on the bottom. Maintain temperature in pan. Turn chicken, cook an additional 6 to 8 minutes. Remove to brown paper towels with a slotted spoon; let chicken rest 5 minutes.

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