Salted with Sharks

7 Questions for Stormcloud Brewing Company Kitchen Master John Snyder

In Culture Bluffs, GOOD NEWS, On and off the Apron, The Mess Deck on June 5, 2013 at 9:46 pm
John Snyder, chef, in the beer garden of the soon to be open Stormcloud Brewing Company

John Snyder, chef, in the beer garden of the soon to be open Stormcloud Brewing Company

1. So you’re the new chef at Stormcloud Brewing, and you’re a 1999 Kalamazoo College English major with a music minor. Does your cooking have a deep structure to it? And how does that relate to a universal grammar, if such exists, of breweries?

Well, I am heading up the Storm kitchen, though I don’t claim the title of chef— maybe sometime I’ll deserve that, just not yet. The structure of my cooking is a combination of influences I’ve gleaned through years of eating the good, the bad, and the ugly and reacting to what I’ve eaten. To me that means that I’ve tried to emulate different techniques, and spurn others. I am very interested in all kinds of different culinary kung fu.

As far as a universal grammar of brewery fare, I feel that I’ve studied a good deal of brewerys and the food served at them, and there is a common thread throughout that sector of the culinary industry; as with all languages there are plenty of different regional dialects. For Stormcloud I feel that we have settled on an opening menu that will fit with our beer, our atmosphere, and our desire to offer thoughtful, well crafted, handmade products. We’re going to start with pizzas—four house pizzas and a build-your-own. We’ll have three or four sandwiches, and some seasonally fitting soup. I’m also doing a terrine and some pâté for a charcuterie plate. We’ll have gastro popcorn—this just seems to make sense with the movie theater next door. And we’ll have a couple of desserts, chocolate and fruit, a float with Moomer’s ice cream served with stout or a local root beer.

2. That sounds way awesomer than we even thought. Possibly Benzie County’s first terrine? What about house-made Snowcaps or adult Jujubes?

I like these ideas. I’ll have to do some experimenting…

3. I saw on Facebook that the brewing has begun. Will there be beers in time for opening day, and what do you think of them? (Be honest.)

There’s going to be 16 taps. Not all of them will be open right away. I had a taste of Brian’s Belgian ale the other day. I actually spent time in Belgium and this tasted like a dyed-in-the-wool Belgian beer to me. Which is not common in this country; most folks who try to reproduce European beer just don’t succeed. Brian’s second is Andy Largent—he’s very talented, very knowledgeable. We’re also going to have a local cider, as well as some local wine, which I think will help balance out the menu.

4. A lot of us are looking forward to this opening very much. I for one plan on spending most of my waking life there. I’m imagining it will be a cultural mecca.

I hate to speak out of turn, but I will say that I’m sure that we’ll be having some very good versatile musicians as the summer progresses. Thinking of Stormcloud as a cultural mecca is in no way a stretch, as we hope to show everybody soon.

5. I’ve heard the bar and table tops are pieces of the old bowling alley in Beulah. What are the actual dishes going to be like? 

The bar itself is made of the old bowling lanes in Beulah (and, since I grew up in a bowling establishment in Alpena, this makes it seem very homey to me). The tables are not bowling alley, and we have yet to decide on the exact dishes and flatware.

6. Tell us more about you, how you came to be here and get this job. Please don’t say you grew up coming here in the summertime on vacation. (Unless that’s true, of course.)

No, I never came here on vacation, though I used to play music here several times a year during my previous career. I have been studying culinary arts at GLCI for the last couple of years. One of my chef instructors at school heard about Stormcloud and told me he thought I should try for the job. I met up with Rick [Schmitt] and [Elberta’s own] Brian [Confer] and I feel like we just clicked.

7. What’s your management style? Are you one of those scary chefs?

No, I am not one of those “scary” chefs, although I would use another word for them that probably wouldn’t make the edit. I feel like that kind of attitude, the one which rules by fear, is at minimum not helpful and at most very counterproductive to a kitchen and the food it produces. I realized a long time ago that the attitude/energy of anyone who is cooking goes into the food that they make—i.e., an angry cook makes angry food, a depressed cook makes sad food, and a cook who feels browbeaten makes uninspired, downtrodden food. I don’t know about you but I prefer a happy cook and happy, inspired, whimsical food. It just tastes better, and after all isn’t that what we all want when we spend our hard-earned money out to eat?  Ψ

  1. You DO interviews so well just because you don’t ask ‘canned questions! Your personality comes out hugely!!! Love these…

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