Stories / Interviews

Ask a Chef: Make or Buy Pickles?

Maggie Borden

Maggie Borden

March 03, 2015


While it may seem that the scale has tipped toward housemade ​everything, even top toques will admit that the best option sometimes lies outside the restaurant kitchen. We asked chefs from around the country to spill about what they source in and out of house. In our first installment, the pros dish on their pickling preferences.


JBF Award Winner Ashley Christensen, Beasley’s Chicken + Honey, Chuck’s, Fox Liquor Bar, and Poole’s Downtown Diner, Raleigh, North Carolina: 

“We make all kinds of pickles in-house. At Chuck's, we do dill cucumber burger pickles, at Beasley's we pickle green tomatoes for the fried chicken thigh biscuits, and at Poole's we have our pickled spring ramps and the fermented beet tops that we use to spike relishes and mayos. With all of the bounty of North Carolina, it’s not a question of to pickle or not, it’s what to pickle next.”

JBF Award Winner Maria Hines, Agrodolce, Golden Beetle, and Tilth, Seattle:

“I like being able to control the balance of sweet and salty, along with the spice profile, so it matches the flavors of the dish it’s being served with.”

JBF Award Winner Stephanie Izard, The Girl & the Goat and Little Goat Diner, Chicago:  

“We make our own pickles from bread-and-butter to various veggies. It’s a good way to preserve some of our farmer favorites in winter.”

Yehuda Sichel, Abe Fisher, Philadelphia:

“Currently we’re pickling Persian cucumbers, as well as green tomatoes that are spiced like a dill pickle. Doing it here means you can start with exactly the produce you want, and you can control the flavor: how sweet it is, if you want garlicky or spicy. You also get to see how the pickle matures—how it looks after a day, after a week.“

JBF Award Winner Michael Symon, B Spot, Lola, and Lolita, Cleveland; and Roast, Detroit, MI: 

“I love doing fermentation in-house because it not only teaches young cooks patience, but it also shows them how flavors change throughout the process, going from salty to sour with the spices you add opening up during that time.”

Maggie Borden is assistant editor at the James Beard Foundation. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

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