Troy Schuster 2

Q&A: Troy Schuster of 211 Clover Lane

Trying to get a table at 211 Clover Lane without a reservation on a weekend will send you seeking sustenance elsewhere. Their regular customers might not know the chefs’ names, but make no mistake, they know the food he prepares is some of the best in town.

Age: 37
Current Restaurant: 211 Clover Lane
Previous Restaurants: Le Beaujolais; Bottega Restaurant and Café (Birmingham, Ala.); Azalea (Birmingham); Azalea (Louisville)
Neighborhood (current): Germantown
Hometown: Louisville (high school: Eastern)
Significant Other: Single
Kids: None
Favorite Hobbies: Whitewater kayaking, bow hunting for deer, turkey hunting
Favorite Cookbook: Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey R. Shere
Favorite Kitchen Gadget: Microplane grater/zester

Ahi truna crudo
Ahi truna crudo

What is your first food memory?
“My grandma, baking cakes. She made a walnut eggnog cake that was pretty awesome.”

Who has influenced your cooking the most?
“Frank [Stitt, owner of Bottega Restaurant in Birmingham]. When I went to work for him, I was going from Azalea, which was fusion, where they threw three or four countries into one dish. With Frank I was learning simplicity. The local ingredient thing. Not overcomplicating things. Starting with the best product possible that just shows off itself.”

Why did you become a chef?
“I’ve always had the interest in cooking. When I went to the University of Louisville I started working at Azalea, and worked my way up.”

What did you want to be when you grew up?
“I always wanted to be a chef. I always watched Yan Can Cook and that Cajun guy, back before the Food Network.”

Who are your favorite chefs?
“Frank, because I worked for the guy. Paul Kahan up at Blackbird in Chicago. David Chang at Momofuku.”

Besides 211 Clover Lane, what is your favorite restaurant in Louisville?
“I don’t get out much. I guess I’d have to say La Rosita in New Albany. It’s just real authentic Mexican. I like Nam Nam Café. Basa’s good too. I like Juicy’s Barbecue.”

Which seasonings don’t you respect?
“Old Bay.”

Which are underrated?
“I’d say salt and pepper. A lot of people are afraid to use it, and they don’t season things enough. Also marjoram.”

Braised duck
Braised duck

Are there any culinary trends you are wild about right now?
“I don’t think there are any big trends I’m into, aside from what I’ve always done, the local stuff. I just cook simple French and Italian food.”

Any trends you consider overrated?
“The whole chemistry stuff — molecular gastronomy. Some of it’s kind of neat. But I don’t see it lasting.”

What do you think is the next worthwhile food/dining trend?
“Horsemeat. They just legalized it for consumption here. It won’t go over well in Kentucky, but I could see people eating it in New York.”

What’s your favorite go-to ingredient?
“Pancetta.”

Is there a guilty-secret ingredient in your kitchen — something you’d rather not be spotted using?
“I try to keep all that shit out of my kitchen. I can’t think of anything.”

What’s in your fridge at home?
“I’ve got a freezer full of venison, a bottle of champagne, a few beers and a bunch of condiments. Pickles, mustard. And that’s it. A total bachelor fridge right there. I don’t cook at home very often.”

Is there anything in that home fridge you’d rather not admit to having?
“The champagne, I guess, because I’m not a big champagne drinker. It’s cava, at least. Not Andre.”

Braised duck
Braised duck

What food is your guilty pleasure?
“Double Dragon pot stickers and General Tso’s chicken.”

Is there a food you can’t bring yourself to eat?
“Lamb fries.”

Your favorite quick meal to prepare at home?
“Pan seared steak and broccoli or Brussels sprouts.”

Your worst kitchen nightmare?
“I had a dishwasher strain a stockpot full of demiglace. He put the strainer in the sink and strained it and left the bones.”

Best cooking tip for a novice?
“Season everything. And always start with a hot pan.”

What’s your last meal on earth, if you had the chance to choose?
“Probably a big foie-gras sandwich. Yeah—a sixteen-ounce dry-aged ribeye with a slab of foie gras and demiglace.”