After spending several years as part of the waitstaff serving fine dining fare to guests at East Memphis gem Erling Jensen, Keith Clinton worked his way up the ladder to become chef de cuisine for the contemporary restaurant. He decided to join the kitchen team with little to no previous professional experience, but he cut his teeth on the cooking line before being promoted to managing menus and the other staff. Now he’s letting his Southern roots shine in many of the exquisite meals prepared on a nightly basis.
Do you see any connection between the upscale dishes you serve and traditional Southern fare?
Southern cooking has direct connections to fine dining thanks to the time and thoughtfulness put into every dish. There’s really no difference between what we do in the restaurant and what people do in their backyards for family barbecues. Both take plenty of effort, but the result is a delicious meal worth eating again and again.
What are your must-make recipes this time of year?
A warm, hearty beef bourguignon is always on my mind in this weather. It’s one of my favorites and can be such a simple braised stew to whip up. People visiting the restaurant around this time can pretty much expect to see it on the menu, but I’ll even make it for my family at home if the craving strikes.
What seasonal treats are you most excited to cook with?
Right now, I’m really into mushroom picking. I have a 3-year-old son, and we love to watch the charts and track the weather to find out perfect times to go hunting for them. He also really loves persimmons, so I’ll likely be tracking down every last one for him.