No Menu Minnis

BBQ eel parisian gnocchi!

Za’atar biscuits! Moroccan tomato jam!

If you show up at The Market Italian Village’s No Menu Mondays, you don’t really get to hear Tyler Minnis yell out his adventurous concoctions in reality—but why are you taking our imagination out of our culinary adventure?

As Columbus ratchets up its thrill-seeking palate, and chefs continue to evolve what a truly seasonal menu is driven by, we’re drawn to concepts like Minnis’ NMM, even if he’s not yelling for his sous chef to prepare the carrot cake with goat cheese vadouvan icing and tamarind ice cream. It’s truly all about seeing what Minnis, ever the envelope pusher and food efficiency expert in his days as co-owner of Angry Bear Kitchen, can do with what he’s got at his disposal.

Each week he preps a new menu on the fly based on what’s still bouncing around the market after weekend service.

Think of like a Chopped episode—where challenges are self-inflicted and the judges are regulars.

“I don’t usually purchase new product for a Monday menu,” he said. “I basically just walk around the kitchen and see what ingredients we have on-hand—especially if there’s anything we have an abundance of. I also harvest out of our garden the day before, as well as see if any of the other chefs in A&R Creative Group have some things they want taken off their hands. This allows for minimal waste in the kitchen and drives me and my team to create new things out of ingredients that are already at our fingertips.”

A little nerve-wracking? Sure, but that’s what chefs like Minnis and his team live for in the kitchen.

“The vast majority are new dishes that I’ve never made or tested before, but we always seem to come up with some winners,” he said. “My favorites are almost always the ones that I’m surprised that are so well received because I like those dishes that push the boundaries of everyone’s comfort level.”

We do, too. That’s why we caught Minnis a day after one of his No Menu Mondays to get a little taste of why it’s important to keep pushing Columbus into new tastes.      

 With No Menu Mondays, are you trying to carry over a little bit of that outside-your-comfort zone mentality that seemed to be a big part of Angry Bear’s mission?

The common denominator in both restaurants is I’m creating the menu, so that outside-your-comfort-zone mentality will always be lingering over every menu I create—it just depends on the canvas on which I’m painting. I try to restrain myself into the limitations of Italian/Mediterranean cuisine at the Market, whereas ABK was no holds barred. The quirky creations were certainly more prevalent when it was just one big “modern American” melting pot of food to pull inspiration from. That mentality is just the way I think and like to cook. Mondays it naturally comes out because I’m on such a time crunch. I don’t have time to think too much, so my first instincts are the ones we go with, and my personality comes through those dishes a little bit more.

You’ve been able to travel a lot with A&R Creative Group. Do you think a specific country’s cuisine or style of cooking has inspired you?

As I grow older, I find that my cooking keeps getting simpler—almost more rustic. My dishes revolve and start with vegetables and I strive to be ultra-seasonal. I find it more difficult to properly cook a vegetable, versus a piece of meat. I enjoy that challenge, as well as paying homage to the farmer that worked hard on his crops. That being said, the 10 days I spent traveling the country of Lebanon [were] very inspiring. The people there are so generous when it comes to educating visitors about their fruitful country. Almost every family has their own garden and it’s a way of life to preserve the changing seasons in order to enjoy them throughout the entire year. I saw a lot of different Mouneh rooms (pantries) throughout my trip. They take a lot of pride in their work and how and what they decide to put in jars. Their flavor profiles, dishes, spices, and mentality towards treating food certainly struck a chord with me, which I find somewhat surprising because I was never very interested in middle eastern cuisine until I experienced it first-hand. Now, I find myself drawing inspiration from their beautiful cuisine without even thinking—it just happens naturally.

What Ohio produce item do you favor the most?

If I had to pick one it would have to be big juicy ripe tomato. I only eat and cook with them when they’re in season. I’ve found that this makes a lot of people upset, but I just don’t see the point in using them when they aren’t being grown in our own backyards. They just don’t taste the same. I’ve probably had 30 tomato sandwiches this summer. Hershberger Farms sweet melon was probably the best thing I had all summer. It was so surprisingly sweet and delicious; I literally couldn’t get enough of them. We made ice cream, sorbet, granita, and put them in a panzanella salad. It was a fantastic product that I look forward to using next summer.

One dish forever. What would it be?

That’s a tough question because I will try and love a lot of different foods. However it seems like I’m always in the mood for sushi. I just can’t get enough of it for some reason. The best sushi I’ve ever had was probably in LA and Barcelona, Spain. I usually go to Akai Hana here in town.

When you get a chance to try out other chefs’ work, who do you feel is also pushing tastes forward in Columbus?

My colleague Justin Wotring, the chef of Hoof Hearted Brewery, does something similar to my NMM. He does “Flights and Bites” every Friday and pairs food with Hoof beer, so he’s always coming up with new dishes and pushing himself to be creative every week. I also like what Chef Jack Moore is doing at Watershed, as well as Josh Dalton at Veritas. I’m happy that they made it downtown.

Columbus is obviously undergoing a pretty rapid evolution in the way we approach food—from both chef and consumer standpoints. To you, what is the biggest shift in what Columbus diners are looking for? Is this the right time to start asking Columbus to trust in the tastes of its chefs and go on an adventure?

I think they’re looking for answers. Educated diners in Columbus have been around for a long time now. I think that we are just starting to see more and more of them, especially with the younger demographic. Traceability of one’s food and ingredients is so important these days. The consumer is going to ask about their food—there’s no doubt about it—so you might as well source responsibly and locally when it’s feasible, or else you’re going to get caught with your pants down. I think the Columbus community is realizing that you don’t need to live in California, the Pacific Northwest, or the Southern part of the United States to find really great seasonally-driven regional cuisine. It’s right here at their fingertips; they just need to seek it out a little bit, dine with an open mind, and support the local businesses instead of the chains that have saturated our town. – Hollen Campbell contributed to this story 

                                  

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Travis Hoewischer

I've been working in journalism in central Ohio for more than a decade, and have been lucky enough to be a part of (614) Magazine since the very first issue. Proud to live in a city that still cares – and still reads.

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