When Hilton Braithwaite began working in restaurants in his native Cambridge, Mass., while still in high school, he knew he was making money. "But I didn't know what I was acquiring was a trade," he said. "That I could always find work."
These days, after a stint as a photography teacher at Howard University, he is back to being a chef, at Mount Vernon's Central Station restaurant.
Photography and cooking have always been the two driving factors in Braithwaite's life. He finds both challenging and rewarding, and cooking is always there if art leads to lean times.
But he thought of cooking as just a job until he worked at a fine French restaurant in San Francisco. He was in graduate school, studying photography, and considered himself "an art school kid" who happened to be working in a restaurant. Then one of the chefs said, "You know, man, we don't do anything else. This is all we do." And Braithwaite realized that cooking, too, was a form of art, and for chefs, their art was just as compelling as his.
Braithwaite moved to Baltimore last year and bought a house in Union Square. When his job at Howard ended, he happened to see a newspaper ad for an executive chef for Central Station, and got the job. Despite his background in French cuisine, he favors American classics for the restaurant -- roast chicken, mixed grills, potatoes and rutabagas roasted in the oven. "We do down-home cooking," he said.
Here is one of Braithwaite's recipes:
Pan-fried pork chops Central Station style
2 4- to 5-ounce center cut pork chops ( 1/4 -inch fat desirable)
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons peanut oil or good-quality olive oil
1/2 medium Spanish onion, chopped
1 large shallot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 medium-size domestic mushrooms, stems removed, caps chopped
dash Tabasco sauce
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 large tomato, chopped
1/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup demi-glace or beef broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Sprinkle both sides of chops with salt and pepper. Heat a skillet with the oil. Add chops and sear until golden brown, about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes per side. Adjust flame to keep them from burning. Remove chops from pan and place in an oven-proof dish in the oven.
In the skillet, saute the onion, shallot and garlic until translucent. Add mushrooms and saute until they start to pick up color, stirring constantly. Add two shakes of Tabasco, cilantro, tomatoes and frozen peas to skillet. Add red wine, to deglaze.
Add the beef stock and reduce liquid by half. Remove chops from the oven and check for doneness (should be medium, or 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer). As sauce begins to thicken, add butter and stir in.
To serve, place chops on plates and spoon half of sauce over each one.
Pub Date: 1/08/97