No, He Meant the Champagne of Beers and Not-Poisoning a Prince of Saudi Arabia: A Q&A with Andrew Jennrich of Farmhaus
So put it this way: If it was inevitable that Andrew Jennrich and his wife would find the cost of raising their then-newborn daughter in Chicago prohibitive, we are lucky that they chose to relocate to St. Louis rather than Minneapolis or another similarly sized city.
Jennrich, who has worked in restaurants in San Francisco and Las Vegas as well as Chicago, is now the chef de cuisine at Kevin Willmann's deservedly acclaimed Farmhaus (3257 Ivanhoe Avenue; 314-647-3800).
We met at Farmhaus at the tail end of lunch service earlier this week to discuss how he turned a desperate need for cash in college into a culinary career, his formative experience under the acclaimed Chicago chef Grant Achatz, the problem with ordering his go-to drink from the Farmhaus staff and what those dudes were doing in the kitchen when a prince of Saudi Arabia ate at a restaurant where he worked in Las Vegas.
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What did your family eat when you were a kid? My mom's mom was a big cook. She's from southern Indiana. They moved up to the northside of Chicago a long time ago. We'd be at my grandmother's house every other weekend. She'd always make everything from scratch, biscuits from scratch -- you wouldn't see a package of biscuits.
I don't know if it's because my mom's mom was such a good cook, my mom -- and she's getting so much better -- she's going to crush me if this makes the paper -- she's a terrible cook. She's awful. To be honest, growing up, [eating] was sheerly out of sustencance, not out of enjoyment. But food was a big part while my grandma was still alive, and somewhere down inside me, it resonated when I finally started to cook.
What were your favorite foods then? I loved my grandma's fried chicken and biscuits. That was the best thing. I still remember those sounds and smells standing in her kitchen. Fried chicken's still one of my favorite things to eat.
What's a typical meal at home for you? I have two young kids. My son is just two months old. My daughter, she's only two. So a lot of the cooking I do at home is really one-pot meals because I get such limited time with my wife and my kids. I want them to enjoy food, I want them to have good meals, but I want to make sure I can spend as much time with them as possible. My Crock-Pot is my biggest friend. Braised colalrds and beans with pork shoulder -- that's an every-other-week staple. Rice and beans.
Any guilty pleasures? Something we'd be surprised you like? All the food I like is guilty pleasure. Dont get me wrong, I definitely will enjoy a salad. But it's like when I walked into Farmhaus [for the first time], the mushroom salad was in Food & Wine, but I'm getting "Breakfast" [roasted pork belly with maple sausage, corn blini and a poached egg].
What's on top of your pizza? It's really specific. This is more of a Good Pie-style pizza. Lardo, fried egg and some kind of bitter green to offset all that.
Being from Chicago, you're a fan of deep-dish pizza? Oh yes.
Who has the best deep-dish? The thing is, the best pizza places in Chicago don't do deep-dish. Art of Pizza or Coalfire, it's all thin. Lou Malnati's, for being a [Chicago] chain, is fantastic. My wife misses Lou Malnati's ike there's no tomorrow. We have Lou Malnati's frozen pizza in our freezer right now because she can't live without it.
What's your drink of choice? Just a beer. Cold beer. With two kids, the wallet isn't available for a nice glass of bourbon.
Any beer in particular? Miller High Life. The "Champagne of Beers." I still accidentally get brought an actual glass of Champagne sometimes. At the end of the night, I'll tell one of the servers, "Hey, can I have a Champagne, please? Champagne with a lime." Literally, I've had two servers bring me a glass of Champagne. Read the label. It's the "Champagne of Beers."