Get to know Greg Smith, corporate executive chef of Ling and Louie’s Asian Bar and Grill. Good news: The restaurant has re-opened!
How did you get your start in the culinary world?
My first cooking job was at a 24-hour eatery and i was horrible at it. When I would walk in to work, the manager would roll his eyes because he knew I was not very good. One night the graveyard cook did not show up for his shift and the manager looked at me and begrudgingly asked me to stay. I said, “by myself???” He said he would help. He lied. We got rocked with a nearly full restaurant and every time he came back to see how bad I was doing, his smile kept getting bigger and bigger as I was “killing it,” he said. After the rush, he told me he didn’t know who I was but if i could show up for Greg’s shifts all the time I would get a big raise. Six months later, I was the kitchen manager. I had found want I was meant to do by force. Wouldn’t have it any other way.
What is the most rewarding part of your career? What about the biggest challenge?
My mom was a teacher and wanted me to do the same. Once I started managing kitchens, I found myself being a teacher of sorts, just not the way mom thought. I enjoy showing the crew how to do something easier, faster and seeing the look on their faces when they get it is awesome.
As for the biggest challenge, it’s not hiring staff (which is a major challenge and keeps me up at night) but keeping everyone engaged in doing their jobs the way we drew it up in the training manuals. That is why we “make the big bucks” I was once told, but as the great Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
What can first-time diners expect from Ling & Louie’s?
An explosion of flavors that contrast each other and at every turn; food that has both an Asian and American touch to each dish. From meatloaf with wasabi mashed potatoes to Pad Thai, we have no rules when it comes to creating new dishes. That is what makes this job so much fun.
The restaurant slogan is “not for boring people.” How does the menu reflect that?
The “not for boring people” slogan came about from our “no rules” in creating items for our guests to eat and drink. No rules equals endless possibilities on mixing flavors that are not typically mixed together like bleu cheese and creme brûlée. An odd combo for sure, but extremely delicious and taking your taste buds for a crazy ride at the same time.
Tell us about your weekend brunch, which is somewhat new.
The introduction to brunch this year is something we have always wanted to do and has definitely paid off in creating some great dishes. Hopping on the bandwagon of chicken and waffles, our version has a Szechwan peppercorn and Chinese 5 spice waffle topped with crispy tempura chicken and a spicy Thai chili maple syrup has me waiting for the weekend every week. Luckily, I know the recipe and can have it on Wednesday if I choose to.
What’s new or upcoming for the restaurant?
We will see our monthly wine pairing dinners return, which is another exciting way for us to create dishes for our guests that are different from the core menu. Being able to produce unique items that are just for one night for one group of people is always exciting for us. Watching faces as they mix food and drink is an extremely satisfying feeling that is magnified when a big group is doing it at the same time.
Can’t-miss dish(es) at Ling & Louie’s:
Can’t miss dishes at L&L would have to be 1). My personal favorite the Firecracker Chicken. Hands down, I love this dish. Spicy, tons of flavor not just heat. Thai chilis, chili paste and coconut milk to balance the flavors. Yummy! 2). Black Orchi Ahi. Simple, sexy with a ton of different flavors happening in this dish. Shashimi-grade Ahi, crisp cabbage slaw, spice from the mustard the gives a hint that you are going for a ride, then the balance of the Ahi that sets you back down to earth with the aid of some pickled ginger. You can’t go wrong with either of these dishes… or both.