We initially heard about Tim Garton a few months ago. When we met him, we were immediately blown away with his culinary chops, passion for quality, and ability to drink from a boot. Tim first earned his stripes in the restaurant scene when he moved to Chicago. It was in kitchens there that he spent his nights searing, sautéing, and braising, working his way up Chicago’s food pyramid to open an LEED certified boutique hotel on Lake Michigan. He can now be found creating and experimenting at Tursi’s Latin King and crisscrossing Des Moines in final preparation for Exile Brewing Co. We recently sat down with Tim to enjoy a few beers and talk about the brewery, food, vikings (yes, vikings!), and more.
Exile Brewing Co.: What is your go-to drink while trying to impress a girl, your friends, and your boss?
Tim Garton: Small batch whiskey, small batch whiskey, and small batch whiskey.
Exile Brewing Co.: And when alone?
Tim Garton: Small batch whiskey with water!
Exile: What is your favorite 3 a.m. cuisine?
Tim: It would probably have to be White Castle… yeah, I know, I know… guilty pleasure.
Exile: You spent the past year working with food outside the kitchen, what brought you back in?
Tim: I felt something missing. I felt like I was working stiff doing the 9-5 thing. I liked my job, it was a good job to have, it paid the bills, and it was secure, but at the same I felt myself wanting to do something more, wanting to get back in the kitchen and be creative. I missed the adrenalin, the drained, tired and excited feeling you felt after the end of a Saturday night. You go home and you’re dead tired, but you feel good because you fed a lot of people and a lot of people were happy with what you and the kitchen team made. I think that’s what probably got me back in to it more than anything else.
Exile: Do you think there is one characteristic all chefs have in common?
Tim: I think so. I think you have to be a little bit crazy. I mean, who else is going to go willingly work 90 hours a week in 130 degree heat, missing friends, family, and social events? But I think, also, any good chef is obsessive compulsive, a little OCD. You have to have that dish looking the same way every time, tasting the same way every time. If it’s not going to be consistent, people aren’t going to come back. If they eat it twice and it’s different both times, why are they going to come back? They aren’t, they’re going to check out someone else. You have to have consistency, which is where the OCD comes in.
Exile: Say the first thought that comes to your head when you hear the following words: Tankard.
Tim: I see a viking sitting with a big mug of beer, saying, “Burn the village and bring me the women!” Tankard, that’s a good word!
Tim: My favorite food in the world.
Tim: Good beer.
Tim: God’s gift.
Exile: Imagine you’re stranded on a desert island with a cooler of ice, beer, three ingredients to cook with, and a volleyball. What three ingredients do you choose? More importantly, what do you name the volleyball?
Tim: I like this one! What three ingredients? Kosher salt, prosciutto, and… butter. I think with those three you can pretty much make anything taste good, whether it be a coconut, crab, or a volleyball.
Exile: So you’re going to eat the volleyball you name?
Tim: Oh, you’re right, I can’t do that! What would I name it? I would probably name him Jerry, maybe after Jerry Garcia.
Exile: What should Des Moines look for and expect from the food at Exile Brewing Co.?
Tim: What Des Moines can look for is approachable food, cooked very well. What can Des Moines expect? They can expect to see things in a different way. They can see approachable food, but maybe plated a little differently, with a little twist on it. Or flavor combinations that you wouldn’t think of, like the cauliflower and chorizo. As far as the kitchen team, the staff we want to put together are people that really care. It’s not just a job, they don’t come in, make their hourly wage, and then don’t give a shit. They come in for the greater good, which is to make Exile Brewing Co. the best it can be. I never want to be complacent, whether it be a dish or cleaning or anything. ”Strive for perfection, even if it’s unattainable, you will attain a high level of excellence.” That’s what I am going for. I know Bob and Amy, R.J., and Todd are all on board with that, “we want to be the best we can be.” Awards and accolades are nice, but that’s not what we’re there for. We’re there to put out good honest food, for good honest people.
Exile: Finally, hotdogs: with or without ketchup?
Tim: #@!$ no! No, no ketchup. That’s sacrilege!
(If you want to know more about our head chef, Tim has officially tweeted for the first time @timmaygarton.)