Inspiration strikes Chef Max in the most interesting ways.
Several years ago Max and I went to Zilker Park's Trail of Lights, a Christmas lights display in an Austin public park. It's a free event, open to the public, and a festive way to celebrate the season in a climate that barely dips below 40 degrees. As we walked through the light display, I grabbed a bag of kettlecorn to munch on. Max has never been much of a popcorn eater, so I got to enjoy the majority of the bag myself!
The next day he calls in the middle of the day to tell me his brilliant idea -- kettlecorn brussel sprouts. As he described the dish, ("fried brussel sprouts tossed in this caramel sauce, so it'll be salty and sweet...") so many thoughts went through my head. First, weird. Caramel and brussel sprouts? I don't know about that. Second, where in the world did you come up with this? As soon as he mentioned "kettlecorn" it clicked - from my snack! My enthusiasm didn't translate, as he's never called again to describe a dish he's developed. That very night, kettlecorn brussel sprouts went on the menu of the restaurant where he was chef.
"I sold at least 1,000 orders of brussel sprouts. At least. It's all people wanted." Kettlecorn brussel sprouts made their menu debut at Eden Hill last week and have since been a hit. "I don't think we've had a bowl come back to the dish pit that's anything but empty," Chef Max says.
For the truly creative, anything can be inspiration. Max has found menu items in my attempt to make him orange chicken at home (for those wondering, it was really messy and didn't work out very well), from McDonald's chicken nuggets dipped in sweet and sour sauce, and the best part of baking a cake - licking the spatula. For those who've spent any length of time with him, his mind is constantly on overdrive. What can I do with this? How can I make this better? Has anyone ever tried this? It's the mind of a chef.