Dreamy Bites

By on July 19, 2017

Chef Brian Laughlin, Field Rations

(Photo: Cole Buckhart and Brian Laughlin)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Most people have an image of a chef’s daily routine. They arrive in a restaurant’s kitchen each evening, and seamlessly craft the lineup of menu favorites for hungry diners. But that’s not how Chef Brian Laughlin rolls. With no brick and mortar restaurant, menus that are constantly changing and evolving and his insatiable desire to explore new flavors, Laughlin is hardly bound by the traditional notion of a chef. Laughlin’s company, Field Rations, is all about bringing visually stunning and provocative plates to the table.

Laughlin’s track to the foodie world was nontraditional too. Although he grew up spending time in his mother’s Midwestern kitchen, he didn’t discover his own culinary passion until college. Laughlin studied industrial design, and picked up work in restaurants to pay for his education. That was when he realized he could combine his artistic eye and natural talent for cooking in a unique way.

While many chefs build a dish around a handful of ingredients or a classic flavor profile, Laughlin’s creations often start with an image or vision of a complete plate—like a work of art. He will then seek out the ingredients that not only reflect the colors and textures he’s envisioned, but also evoke the emotions that swirl around the piece.

“I tend to think in compositions and colors first,” he said. “Then the next step is tying in all the flavors.” Laughlin says that his creations are directly influenced by his own mood, and that all of his culinary creativity is a reflection of his own personality.

A quick scroll through Field Rations’s Instagram evinces Laughlin’s artistic eye. The colors are vivid and bright, textures are inviting, compositions flawless.

Pointing to similarities in landscape, weather and culture to Jackson Hole, Laughlin finds himself inspired by Nordic and Scandinavian chefs. He likes the rich and earthy colors and flavor tones, and the creative ways that his counterparts across the Atlantic are exploring new interpretations of traditional ingredients.

Laughlin takes the emotional immersion of diners even further with his pop-up dinners. Carefully cultivating every detail—from table settings to the soundtrack—Laughlin loves taking people on a journey with food, inviting them to experience something beyond what’s on the plate. “I love everything about eating,” he said. For Laughlin, it’s not just the food, but the overall ambiance that draws emotional reactions and memories.

In addition to pop-up dinners around the valley, Field Rations caters events. Laughlin loves tailoring food to each person’s vision and showcasing local and seasonal fare. Though the choices are never quite the same, what Laughlin creates is always unforgettable.

What’s something home chefs are intimidated by that they shouldn’t be?

Laughlin: When I was growing up, and before I was a professional chef, I would get intimidated by recipes sometimes; whether it would call for equipment I didn’t have, or a technique I wasn’t familiar with. I think that can be intimidating. But just try it out! The worst that could happen is that dinner isn’t perfect. It’ll probably still taste good. Don’t be discouraged, and just learn from the first time!

PJH: Where do you read about food to get inspired?

Laughlin: My biggest influence is Instagram. I used to subscribe to Saver and Bon Appetit, magazines like that. But these days, it’s mostly internet. I’ll research people or restaurants that I’m influenced by, and it’s like a wormhole you fall into. You’re looking at something familiar, and then you click on something else, and then a half hour later, you’re not anywhere near where you were. Instagram is the biggest social media platform for chefs now; everybody’s sharing dishes, recipes, and techniques.

PJH: What could you not live without in your home kitchen?

Laughlin: The first thing that comes to mind is a cast iron pan. My girlfriend and I cook every night at home, and I find us using our cast iron more than anything else. It’s ideal to get a nice char on meats – whether we’re having pork chops or a steak or chicken breasts. I like having that really smoking-hot pan to char food on.

PJH: What ingredient doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves?

Laughlin: I think maybe eggs. When people use eggs, they just think of it as just an egg. And I think of all the amazing characteristics that eggs lend to certain things. Whether you’re making a custard texture, or if you’re making a soufflé. People think ‘all you can do is fry them,’ but there are so many other things you can do with them! You can make or thicken sauces with them; their chemical composition and the way they react under certain temperatures is a lot more amazing than people give them credit for.

PJH: What are you most looking forward to at the farmer’s market?

Laughlin: I love garlic scapes. Those are definitely an interesting thing that are very seasonal.

Lightning round

PJH: Favorite cocktail?

Laughlin: Penicillin

PJH: How do you like your eggs?

Laughlin: Sunny side up

PJH: Breakfast—sweet or savory?

Laughlin: Savory

PJH: Strangest thing you’ve eaten?

Laughlin: I recently had pig brains. They were interesting; similar to organ meat in flavor, but a texture like butter.

PJH: Your chef idol?

Laughlin: Swedish chef Niklas Ekstedt. His whole restaurant is wood-fired, and he doesn’t use any electricity to cook.PJH

About Melissa Thomasma

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