Chef’s Table: Chris Hastings of Ovenbird

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When cooking over open flame—the connecting thread of OvenBird’s versatile menu—there’s only one cookware that stands up to the job. “Cast iron is part of any professional kitchen for a bunch of reasons,” Chris says. “It has this great density, and it holds and transfers heat easily. When you’re putting a pan over a direct flame like we do, things like aluminum don’t hold up at all. Cast iron is just a superior vessel to cook in.” And he should know— Chris was cooking with cast iron long before his culinary career began. Like every good Southern boy, he learned the tenets of cast-iron cooking in the kitchens of his mother and grandmother. “No one told me, ‘This is how you season your skillet and this is how you clean it,’” he says. “I just watched them do it. They never washed the skillets. They just wiped them out and put them away.” Now at the helm of a restaurant brimming with cast iron, Chris makes sure to train his employees on the nuances of keeping OvenBird’s arsenal of skillets in top shape, from avoiding dish detergent as much as possible to making sure every last drop of water has been wiped from the pan’s surface before stacking. Using cast iron in a restaurant setting takes a little more effort than quick-cleaning stainless steel, but to Chris, there’s nothing better. “It’s the most versatile thing in my kitchen,” he says. “It’s always just been a go-to thing. Being born and raised in the South, it’s just part of life.”

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