Meet four chefs who are cookin' things up in Downtown Boise

doland@idahostatesman.comJuly 11, 2014 

0711 scene food chefs

From left, Downtown Boise chefs Brandon Alegria from St. Lawrence Gridiron, Anna Tapia from The Owyhee’s Kindness, Jason Bruzewski from Reel Foods Fish Market and Aaron Wermerskirchen from Juniper.

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

The Downtown dining scene is getting a lift with several new restaurants, and each one has a different personality and culinary voice in the kitchen.

Some went to a formal institute for training, others learned the ropes working in kitchens across the country or exploring the world of food on their own.

Either way, these creative culinarians are seeking to put their mark on Boise's eclectic food scene by mixing a world of ideas with their tastes and experiences to create their take on American cuisine.

Brandon Alegria

St. Lawrence Gridiron, 705 W. Bannock St.

Brandon Alegria grew up working in his parents' restaurants and food trucks in Boise and Ketchum. They currently own Basilios Tacos. Then at 19, he went out on his own, working in restaurants in Los Angeles.

"It was a whole different deal there," he says. "I started falling in love with the whole feel of restaurants and the caring people have for each other."

Alegria came home to Boise to open The Shack food truck in 2013 with his buddy Everett Beck. They served eclectic gourmet cuisine, such as duck confit tacos.

"I think we were overreaching what people expected out of a food truck," he says.

He started as sous chef at St. Lawrence when it opened in April and stepped into the head chef role when Andrew Mayer moved on a few weeks after opening.

Now at St. Lawrence, he and owner Brian Garrett explore the roots and history of the food we eat today.

"We're trying to understand the culinary history of American cuisine in a real way and let that information inspire our twists on traditional dishes," Alegria says.

Credits: Rivera Restaurant and Playa under chef John Rivera Sedlar in Los Angeles, The Shack food truck, State & Lemp and Lucky Fins in Boise.

Favorite flavors: "Sweet, spicy, salty and acidic - if something doesn't have all of those things in depth, I'm not satisfied," he says. "Being of Latin American descent, the flavors of Central America are my go-to ingredients. Then I combine them with French techniques. It's about doing it right."

Inspiration: David Chang of Momofuku, Sean Brock of Husk in Charleston, S.C., and Nashville, and chef Marco Pierre White "anytime anywhere."

Anna Tapia

Kindness at The Owyhee, 1109 W. Main St.

This week, Anna Tapia opened her first restaurant, Kindness, inside The Owyhee, the new incarnation of the Owyhee Plaza Hotel.

A Boise native, she brings more than 15 years in catering and personal cheffing to the table. She and her husband, Michael, oversee Kindness, the lobby cocktail and coffee bars, and the event catering in the ballroom and penthouse.

A self-taught chef, Tapia has spent time traveling and studying cuisine in Italy, New Orleans and extensively in the Northwest.

Credits: Tapia Family Catering.

Favorite flavors: "Rosemary," she says. "If I could I would use it on everything. I love any fresh herb flavors - basil, cilantro, sage. I love them all. I also love slow-cooked braised meats and homemade soups. All my food takes a long time."

Inspiration: Tom Colicchio of RiverPark in New York City and Heritage Steak in Las Vegas.

Jason Bruzewski

Reel Foods Fish Market, 611 S. Capitol Blvd.

Originally from Jerome, Bruzewski knows fish and seafood. That's a good thing now that's he's developing the menu, raw bar and to-go food program at Reel Foods Fish Market, which will debut later this month.

Ocean Beauty Seafood's sales manager Peter Blatz, formerly of Cottonwood Grille, recruited Bruzewski after he saw him teach a cooking class at Reel Foods, where Bruzewski's wife, Anny, is the manager.

Credits: Pacific Coast Restaurants in Portland, The Gamekeeper, under Mark Owsley, and Barbacoa under Enrique Martinez in Boise, and for Airmark Culinary Services at Boise State University under chef Philippe Didier.

Favorite flavors: "Indian cuisine - that's what got me into food in the first place," he says. "When I lived in San Francisco, I had a roommate from Bangladesh who taught me how to make curries. It was a big influence."

His new menu includes a curry chicken salad, along with other Asian influences on fish. You'll also find fresh tuna sandwiches and a traditional lobster rolls.

Inspirations: He keeps a small library of books in his office that includes "Le Guide Culinaire Escoffier," by Auguste Escoffier and "Latin Evolution" by Jose Garces, and his all-time favorite chef is Thomas Keller, founder of Napa's The French Laundry.

Aaron Wermerskirchen

Juniper, 211 N. 8th St.

Chef Aaron Wermerskirchen started his culinary path in college.

"When my friends would get hammered, someone had to do the cooking," he jokes.

He got serious at 20 when he got a job at a small restaurant in Minneapolis owned by a high-powered former Marriott chef.

"He made me his assistant in six months. A year later I was in culinary school in Portland," he says.

He settled in Boise a few years later and started working at The Matador, where he met Juniper co-owner Kacey Montgomery.

Now, they're collaborating to create Juniper.

Credits: The Red Feather Lounge and Bittercreek Alehouse, The Matador, Blue Canyon in Missoula, Mont., and Brasserie Montmartre in Portland.

Favorite flavor: "I love fennel, so there's a lot of fennel on the menu. It's got a crisp, fresh texture and taste and it fries up good, too."

Inspiration: "Buttermilk Channel in New York City. They're doing things like duck meatloaf. I'd like to get something like that on the menu. I love duck. It's such a great flavor. And Ming Tsai's (Food Network show) 'East Meets West.' "

Dana Oland

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