By Kennedy McJunkin
Brick & Tin’s head chef, Bradley Jennings, thinks grown-ups should be eating their vegetables, and he has found a better way to serve them.
“A lot of people grew up having to eat vegetables that they were less than enthusiastic about eating,” Jennings said. “We are all grown-ups now, so we should start eating vegetables.”
Brick & Tin will showcase one of its vegetarian dishes at the 22nd annual Corks and Chefs tasting event, April 27-28.
Brick & Tin is one of more than 15 restaurants highlighted in this year’s event, which is sponsored by Magic City Art Connection (see story nearby).
Last year was Brick & Tin’s first year in the event. It served an asparagus salad with large pieces of asparagus, sugar-snap peas and carrots. Jennings described the salad as a nice mixture of spring vegetables with no lettuce.
“People were really excited about it even though it was just a pile of vegetables,” Jennings said. “It was done in such a cool and simple way, people knew what they were eating.”
This year, Brick & Tin will feature a vegan pea salad with English peas, crisp vegetables and a bright curry dressing.
“I’m not vegan,” Jennings said, “but my sister is, and I try to include better options for everyone.”
Jennings, who is from Nashville, is the only boy of three sisters and has wanted to be a chef since he was 14 years old. He moved to Birmingham eight years ago and started working at Highlands, then Bottega Cafe. Jennings worked through all the stations, starting as a dessert plater under Frank Stitt.
“I didn’t get the right skill set until I started working for Stitt,” Jennings said. “It was a lot of rigorous studying and honing in on my skills.”
Jennings started working for Brick & Tin in 2014, the same year the Mountain Brook location opened. Owner Mauricio Papapietro opened the first Brick & Tin downtown in 2010.
“Since working with Mauricio, I have grown a lot as a chef,” said Jennings. “We have a good rapport on the direction of the restaurant, and we both have the sense of where we want to get ingredients and the technique involved in preparing the food.”
Jennings and Papapietro collaborate on menu creation and say they often get the best inspiration from their families.
“From time to time we will get stumped on what to put on the menu and will ask Mauricio’s wife,” Jennings said. “She has great ideas because she is a mother of three children and knows what people will eat.”
The menu rotates seasonally based on what the farmers produce and what the season warrants.
“In the winter, people want warm and soulful meals; in the spring, people want light vegetables and colors; and in the summer, well that’s another ball game.”
The Mountain Brook location alone uses 800 pounds of tomatoes a week during the summer. Jennings explained their most popular summer menu item is the Tomato Salad.
“Our farmer in Coleman, Trent Woods, has started planting more tomatoes to satisfy what we need,” Jennings said.
Jennings thinks a great vegetable can be found in every season.
“Our role is to create something you can eat every day and feel OK about. There are a lot of restaurants (where) you get a rich indulgent meal and it’s wonderful, but more people are eating out and need to know there are better options.”