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An introduction to Buttermilk Supply (and to me)

Discussion in 'Buttermilk Supply' started by buttermilk, Oct 13, 2015.

  1. Hey guys,

    Since I'm a new face around here, I wanted to be sure I fully introduce myself and explain my shop. I've split this intro into two parts: one for Buttermilk Supply and one for me (feel free to skip my history!). So, if you're ever curious, here they are.

    Sam (that's me):
    I’ve been in the food industry through my entire working life. My earlier experiences were in food retail management and development for artisan producers that I admired. It presented great opportunities to me such as: establishing a wine and cheese program (before my legal drinking age), meeting Chef Achatz and later eating at Alinea (a formative experience for me), and working with new (to me) ideas in food and business at Zingerman's. I needed to get deeper, so I chose the path towards my primary interest of cooking. I spent a couple months staging around the country at Michelin-starred restaurants before accepting a position at Elizabeth in Chicago. Working with a team of three cooks and a passionate chef we worked our way to earning a Michelin star in our first year. Everything was great, but I needed to do things for myself.

    Throughout these years, I was being introduced, by my (now) wife, to Japanese food and culture. It immediately clicked with me. It was like being born again. Learning about and tasting their thousands of years of culinary advancement with humbling and beyond thrilling. When I left Elizabeth, I didn’t know what I’d do but I knew Japan would be the place to start. So, I spent my first month there.

    Japan blew my mind. I needed it to be a part of my daily life. So, I start an underground bento delivery service, Buttermilk Bento. It quickly became far more popular than I had expected. Within a week of starting an Instagram account and my new business, I had more demand than I could handle. It was great, but it was just me, and there weren’t enough hours in the day, and I missed fine-dining. After months of bentos, I started Buttermilk Social, a series of underground fine-dining Japanese-referenced tasting menu dinners.

    Then, I was offered the exec chef position of a newly rebuilt upscale Japanese restaurant. This was an incredible learning experience for me. I was able to play with food and experiment in new ways while introducing our guests to some of my favorite traditional Japanese foods. During my time at Juno, I cooked collaborative dinners with people that I admire (Chefs Duffy and Sandoval) and brought it full circle cooking our tasting menu for Chef Achatz. Long story short, I needed to move on. This led me to where I am today, Buttermilk Supply.

    Buttermilk Supply:

    I started building Buttermilk Supply in March during a month Japan split between visiting makers, learning Japanese farming, and hiking mountain trails. Since, I've have spent all of my waking hours developing relationships with the craftsmen of Japan, and creating the shop itself. Vetting nearly 100 makers to curate what I think best represents a dynamic and diversified offering of the highest performing tools for the western cook.

    Collaborating with craftsmen that I respect immensely, we've developed some awesome lines of knives specifically for us. We are also the only shop (outside of one in Japan) with the honor of carrying Shigehiro knives: the collaboration of masters Yoshikazu Ikeda and Shigehiro Kasahara. I couldn't be more proud of this. Because of the long process of tweaking profiles and treatment, as well as being sold out before knives hit the store, the shop page shows a fairly small inventory. I will continue to develop relationships with makers, work on creating great new knives, and always go the extra mile to improve your experience in every way.

    In addition to the work from Japanese makers (and, soon, makers from the U.S., Germany, Romania, Canada...) I am making custom work in knives and handles. There will be a thread where I'll post any new work. Additionally, knife sharpening is available through the mail or by appointment at the shop in Chicago.

    I am an extremely open and honest (sometimes to a fault) person. I don't believe in bullsh*t. If you ever have a question, concern, or something I can help you with, I will always be happy to hear from you.


    While I'm spilling my guts over here, I want to give a huge thanks to people like Jon at JKI and Dave Martell. My getting started down this road as a young cook is largely because of Jon's generosity in sharing his knowledge on the forums, his working with new (to us) great makers, and Dave's long-term fundamental support of the other knowledge base. I don't think I'd be able to do what I do if it hadn't been for them and others like them. Another huge thanks to Jim for creating a great and welcoming forum and his willingness to let me be here. (I can't thank everyone from this community that I owe thanks to, but thanks to you guys for what you've all done over the years.)
  2. Toothpick

    Toothpick #2 since day #1 Founding Member

    Hello Sam!

    Thanks for sharing your story with us.
    That underground fine dining part sounds intriguing. How does something like that work?
  3. I realize it's likely all an overshare, but I thought I'd put it all out there.

    I was proposed a space by one of a woman that had been following my work. It turned out to be the coolest space I've ever seen in Chicago. In the neighborhoods it sits like a menacing compound with 15ft cement walls around a half-block property. It had been a cookie factory, bought by an architect, turned into a food-oriented photography studio. So, a giant beautiful space with most of a restaurant kitchen in one corner. (I'm just realizing I drank too much coffee and am rambling on)

    I'd set up a date and post tickets only disclosing the likely number of courses (typically 12-17). It was one communal table of strangers that after three hours and dozen wine-paired courses almost invariably become a roudy group of old friends. Which was awesome. The food was based around ingredients that I could forage that week, products from local farms, and oriented towards the style of Kaeseki and New American. It was a full pop-up restaurant in the sense that I was transporting a restaurants-worth of equipment and serviceware once or twice a month.
  4. Really enjoyed reading your story and look forward both to the collaboration you are going to bring with new Japanese makers we have not seen before and custom work!
  5. Toothpick

    Toothpick #2 since day #1 Founding Member

    That sounds awesome Sam. I think I saw something on TV that was similar. I beleive it was one of those Andrew Zimmern shows. Essentially the chef would do the same thing. Find a place, bring the gear and food, sell tickets, and share the whole experience of cooking the food, serving the food and going over every detail of the cooking and ingredients with the guests.
  6. very interesting to read your story. can't wait to see how you grow and hopefully get a chance to own some of your products.
  7. Wow, that is quite something!
    Very inspirational.
    Welcome in here and best of luck!
  8. Wagner the Wehrwolf

    Wagner the Wehrwolf Founding Member

    Neat stories!
  9. Wagner the Wehrwolf

    Wagner the Wehrwolf Founding Member

    I think I'm going to like you.
  10. apathetic

    apathetic Founding Member

    That was a fun read, curious to see where this leads to :)

    Edit: typo
  11. Jim

    Jim Old Curmudgeon Founding Member

  12. Thanks, guys! I appreciate the kind words. It has been a roller-coaster, and I'm very thankful for everything that led me here.
  13. Lucretia

    Lucretia Founding Member

    Every time I see a post from you I get a craving for biscuits.
  14. Perfect. If it makes you feel any better I always have a craving for biscuits.
  15. chefcomesback

    chefcomesback Founding Member

    Very cool story , welcome on board Sam .
  16. Andre

    Andre Founding Member

    Hey Sam! Didn't I send you a pair of shoes a while back?
  17. Interesting story, Sam. Welcome!
  18. Thanks, Mert! I've loved watching your work.
  19. Andre! Yes! You absolutely did and they were hugely appreciated. They're still being worn by a different young broke cook.
  20. The underground fine dining sounds awesome! Overall a nice read.

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