Meet A Local Monday: Shamus Jones
This Monday we sit down with Shamus Jones, Executive Briner at Brooklyn Brine a small batch artisanal pickling company based in Brooklyn, NY. Known for creating some pretty extravagant pickle flavors, Shamus gives us a breakdown of his start in the business, his favorite BK foodie locales and more.
Where did the idea to start your own artisanal pickling company come from?
The idea for Brooklyn Brine came about for two reasons, a love of pickling, and a disdain of working for others. I had been working in restaurants my whole life, and eventually ended up in two of the finest vegetarian houses in Seattle, Cafe Flora, and Carmelita. This was huge for me, as I hadn't eaten meat for over half of my life, and it was very important for me to believe in what I was cooking. In these two restaurants I learned everything I know about being a chef. The emphasis on layering flavors by delicately crafting complex flavors from simple ingredients really caught my attention. Both places had a farm to table philosophy well before the trend. My pickling obsession can be traced back to a forager coming to carmelita with more chanterelles than he could sell at the height of the season. We took on #150 and oil poached them, stratifying the use until mid-winter. From the idea that my favorite seasonal mushroom could be pickled and enjoyed throughout the year, or when we ran out, and that layers of flavor could be implemented (sour, salty, sweet, savory, and spicy) sparked my pickling obsession, Fast forward a couple of years, and a couple stints at NYC restaurants, my patience for working under or with other owners started to wear thin. In 2009 I was doing a chef consulting job, which ultimately ran out of money and laid me off, 6 hours later I started BB by going into a friends restaurant kitchen from 10pm-8am.
How did you get started in the food industry?
My start in the restaurant industry is pretty uneventful. Much like any other 15 year old wanting some extra scratch to buy punk records and skateboards, I started doing dishes at a local restaurant, which quickly turned into prep. From there I spent the next 14 years climbing up in the culinary world, ultimately earning the title executive chef before starting Brooklyn Brine.
If you could choose 5 ingredients to make a meal - what would you choose and what would you make?
Morrel mushrooms, English Peas, Spring Onions, Israeli Cous Cous, Mint.
I'm most inspired by Moroccan spice blends and dishes, so for me, this would make the perfect spring tagine. Pan sear the mushrooms in a dry pan, add oil and garlic once they start making a crackling sound, and hit it with some white wine or whiskey towards the end. English peas would be pureed into a sauce combined with the mint. Cous cous would be curried in a lemon and oil emulsion, and spring onions would be grilled and tossed with pea tendrils to top the dish. YUM!
How do you come up with the pickle brine flavors?
Pickle brines are largely a result of not being able to turn your brain off at 4am! In fact, I don't think there will be a day that goes by for the rest of my life where I don't think about pickles, woes of an "Executive Briner"! But I digress to a simpler answer, in short, ingredients. We use our olfactory receptors to guide our way through new and unique flavor combinations by having seasonal produce, fresh herbs, and worldly spices at our dispose. Other products like our Hop-Pickle collaboration with the ALMIGHTY DOGFISH HEAD BREWERY (www.dogfish.com) came by way of us looking for a brewery to collaborate with, and DFH simultaneously looking for a pickle company. I received an email from Sam Calagione about an idea they had to put hops into pickles, but they didn't make pickles, and would we be game to develop something together!! We are constantly looking for ways to continually be a leader of innovation in a crowded market, which I think has been the largest attribute to our success!
What's your favorite Brooklyn foodie spot?
My favorite place to eat in Brooklyn is Caracas, a Venezuelan arepa joint on the south side of Williamsburg. Family owned East Village institution, which expanded into BK 5 years ago, that focuses on the simplicity of fine ingredients, and fiercely defending what's uniquely Venezuelan cuisine!
www.brooklynbrine.com/ @BrooklynBrine on Twitter/Instagram