Changing Courses: A Q&A with Chef Greg Baxtrom

Chef Greg Baxtrom’s beloved restaurants have become neighborhood staples in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. While preparing for his next milestone, expanding into Manhattan with his new Rockefeller Center restaurant, Five Acres, he sat down with us to talk about expanding impact in the kitchen, working with Perfect Day ingredients, and bringing sustainability to the kitchen.

How and why a Spaetzle? 

In true Olmsted fashion, we wanted to incorporate items from the greenmarket into the dish, while making something hearty for the season. Our Dill & Spinach Spaetzle is a tasty classic that combines flavors that pair beautifully together. 

How and why a mini spiced loaf cake?

The Carrot Ginger Loaf Cake is super seasonal. It was also a great way for our Executive Pastry Chef to work with more than one Perfect Day product.

What does testing and iterating on animal-free dairy and developing a recipe look like?  

We approached recipe testing the same way we would if using traditional dairy. We start with our original recipe, and use Perfect Day’s suggested ratios as a great place to start testing the product. 

How did using the PD cream cheese, milk, cake mix, protein powder, and egg replacer compare to traditional dairy products?  

It took some time to nail down our ideal water to protein ratio for the dishes. Once we figured this out, we were impressed by how easy the product was to work with. 

How did the PD team support your recipe development process? 

It was a delight working with the Perfect Day team. Everyone was extremely communicative, especially their Chef, Sascha, who was always available for quick questions. 

How has your view on sustainability evolved over time? 

Sustainability has always been important to me – since before opening Olmsted – and my view is constantly evolving. It feels more urgent than ever, but it’s important to recognize what’s within my power to change. Right now, that lives within my restaurants. I’m constantly learning new ways to consider sustainability from the people I work with.  

Why is it important for Chefs to prioritize sustainability and planet-positive practices in the kitchen?

Restaurants garner a ton of waste. As a business owner, It’s important to recognize the small changes one can make that end up making a big difference. When multiple individuals make little changes, it does add up.  

How can restaurants become more sustainable?

It’s all about using what you have and making the most out of it across the restaurant as a whole. Getting creative with byproducts, like using poaching liquids in cocktails or dehydrating peels to make coasters are just a few of the ways we try to get the most out of materials before throwing them away. It makes our dishes more creative and inventive and is also better for the environment.  

Who are some sustainable Chefs that inspire you? 

Alice Waters & Dan Barber. They are the godmother and godfather of sustainability and supporting local purveyors.  

What is working with the Perfect Day’s products like? 

It’s great once you figure out the ratios you need. It’s a nice alternative we can offer our guests. 

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring Chef?

Do a job large or small. Do it right or not at all.  

What’s your proudest milestone in your career?  

Opening Olmsted was one of my proudest moments. After working in so many different kitchens, there was nothing like conceptualizing and actualizing my own cuisine on my own terms. 

Who or what do you look to for inspiration when developing a new recipe? 

I am always inspired by the fruits and vegetables at the green market, and the farmers, gatherers, and purveyors who we work with.  

And finally, what is your vision for a kinder, greener future? 

My vision is that people everywhere make use of our natural resources, and value and empower the growers and producers who provide them.  

We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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