Chefs will often tell you they’re only as good as their ingredients. They’ll talk about how the right ingredient can make a dish shine, so long as the chef treats it with care. And they’ll tell you that one flavor, one smell, can be the guiding force behind an entire dish.
Finding and highlighting the right ingredients is the philosophy that defines the menu at Ingredient True Eatery – the restaurant known for soups, salads and sandwiches — that Bread & Butter Concepts took over this past January.
“When you hear the word ingredient, you think fresh. We wanted to make sure that everything that hits the plate is fresh,” George Atsangbe, the Director of Culinary for Bread & Butter Concepts, says.
Two decades ago, Atsangbe was on track to become an ambassador, majoring in political science at North Carolina State University. But he started working in kitchens and unexpectedly found a new career path.
“I got a little carried away,” Atsangbe says. “I just loved seeing how people got excited when they have their meal.”
Atsangbe attended the Culinary Institute of America and came to Kansas City as the head restaurant opener for Houlihan’s. He joined Bread & Butter Concepts two years ago. With Ingredient True Eatery, he wants to create dishes that are comforting and familiar in order to create a trust with diners, which allows him to introduce an unfamiliar or exotic ingredient.
“I don’t mind four or five ingredients that are new to me, but I don’t want everything to be a surprise,” Atsangbe says. “The key to creating menu items is to have them be consistent. I don’t want to come here every day and have my cheeseburger be different every day.”
Sitting in the sleek dining room that overlooks the green space in Park Place where children kick a soccer ball between brightly colored Adirondack chairs, Atsangbe starts to talk how his ingredient philosophy has helped structure Ingredient True Eatery’s breakfast menu.
“Some people want something to grab and go, some want something lighter and others want just a waffle or pancakes,” Atsangbe.
He points to the Acai Parfait – a twist on a traditional yogurt parfait made with honey drizzled, sliced bananas, raspberries, blueberries and granola. The twist comes from an acai puree added to the low-fat vanilla yogurt. The puree is made from the slightly tart, purple-black berry that is a staple in South America, particularly Brazil.
“You get that acai flavor with a little bit of yogurt. You have crunch and sweetness and tartness. The blend is really good,” Atsangbe says.
When it comes to lunch, salads are a mainstay at Ingredient – the large white bowls flying out of the kitchen in the late morning. The formula for Atsangbe is simple.
“I make a list of ingredients and think about how they fit together. Then I add a cool dressing that goes with it,” Atsangbe says. “With the [Sonoma salad], I was thinking sweet and sour and I ended up with sunflower seeds.”
The Sonoma salad is a spring mix (romaine, kale and Swiss chard) with roasted red peppers and golden beets, dried cranberries, toasted almonds and goat cheese topped with a sunflower vinaigrette. The vinaigrette is made with sunflower seeds that have been emulsified with olive oil and apple cider vinegar.
“The spring mix has crunchiness from the romaine and kale. Then you get sweetness from the golden beets, tartness from the vinaigrette and the almonds give it a nuttiness and added crunch,” Atsangbe says.
As the weather begins to cool, Atsangbe tries to balance flavors that are warming with dishes that his staff can execute when Ingredient gets busy.
“I want things that are simple, but good,” Atsangbe explains.
The oven-roasted chicken fits the bill. It’s seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper and then roasted skin-on in the oven. The chicken is then seared on a hot skillet to crisp up the skin before being finished in the oven.
“I don’t want the [chicken] heavy. There’s no cream, no breaded coating,” Atsangbe says. “We roast it with rosemary sprigs and then add rosemary olive oil and lemon juice while it cooks in the skillet. The rosemary itself infuses into the chicken and it gives it that good pungent flavor.”
It’s served with couscous that’s made with vegetable broth and sautéed vegetables (currently grape tomatoes and asparagus cooked in olive oil and a little bit of lemon juice).
“The couscous keeps the dish light, but gives it some body,” Atsangbe says. “And the lemon juices takes away some of the sweetness from the ripe tomatoes.”
The chicken, like the Wild Mushroom Flat Bread, is a study in balance. The key, Atsangbe explains, is to layer flavors and textures by focusing on one ingredient for each component.
With the Wild Mushroom Flat Bread, he chose wheat flour for the house made dough because it yields a crispy crust. The dough is stretched into a rectangle and then docked and briefly fired in the oven.
The mushrooms are a blend of baby bella, shiitake, and buttons that are tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper, parsley and oregano before being roasted in the oven. The roasting dries out the moisture in the mushrooms before they’re sautéed.
The crust is then topped a garlic oregano spread (roasted garlic, fresh oregano, and red pepper flakes) with the mushrooms and a four cheese blend of mozzarella, parmesan reggiano, provolone and gruyere. The flat bread is put back in the oven for about five minutes until the cheese starts bubbling and the crust begins to brown.
“The wheat crust is almost crispy, like a cracker flavor,” Atsangbe says. “The garlic oregano spread gives you a little bit of heat. I like flavors that go up and keep building. If the flavor is flat, you get bored easily.”
Find Your Flavor is a series of sponsored posts on The Recommended Daily. Over the course of the next year, we’ll explore the menus, cuisine and folks behind dishes at the restaurants in Leawood’s Park Place. We talked food loves with 801 Chophouse’s chef Jeremy Kalcic, visited chef Leo Santana’s scratch kitchen at Carma, looked at how Gordon Biersch pairs food and brews, saw how Pickleman’s is reinventing the sandwich shop, learned about t. Loft’s evolution into a health cafe, discovered cake made daily at Cupcake a la Mode, created a pairing guide for the case at Paciugo, delved into the raw bar at 801 Fish, found out just how far BurgerFi will go to make a better burger and got a peek at RA Sushi’s fall menu.