By KJ Philp, March 2018 Issue.
Before Carly Bielecki took the helm as head chef at Original Gravity, the Chicago native studied under such acclaimed chefs as Jesse Williams and earned her knives in some well-respected Chicago kitchens, including Mana Food Bar and Floriole Bakery.
Bielecki initially brought her Midwestern perspective, as well as her talent for crafting fresh dishes out of quality ingredients, to the Valley two years ago as executive chef and director of catering for a popular Phoenix food truck, Frites Street.
Bielecki, who has called Original Gravity home since last August, sat down with Echo to give us a closer look inside her scratch kitchen. (Read Echo‘s feature on Original Gravity here.)
Echo: How/when did you first realize that you were passionate about culinary arts?
Bielecki: To be honest, it kind of snuck up on me. I was in nursing school and working full time in assisted living. I would always cook (from scratch) for myself and friends, and people started suggesting I take it seriously. Both of my parents are wonderful home cooks and, from a very young age, my siblings and I were helping in the kitchen. Once I made the industry change it all came naturally, I’ve been cooking professionally for about seven years.
Echo: How did this opportunity at Original Gravity come about?
Bielecki: I’ve known Holly for about two years now through the LGBTQ community and at the beginning of the summer I decided to take some time off and do some catering with friends in Colorado. When I came back Holly, Michelle, Tosh and I met a few times to discuss the menu and where they wanted it to go, it’s been a great fit ever since.
Echo: How would you describe The OG?
Bielecki: Emphasis on local product – wine, beer, produce, Noble Bread, scratch kitchen, laid back and fun atmosphere [that’s] very comfortable and approachable (both the food and the environment).
Echo: How would you explain the “scratch kitchen” concept to our readers?
Bielecki: “From scratch,” simply put, means to do something without utilizing anything that has already been done. Every sauce, every season blend, every layer of each dish is done in house, no short cuts … taking the time and doing it right, that’s how the love gets in.
Echo: How much of your time would you estimate goes into generating seasonal offerings or new dishes? What does that process look like at The OG?
Bielecki: We offer specials every week, often showcasing seasonal ingredients in soups at lunch or highlighting old favorites, like our sliders, on Thursday nights. As far as testing new dishes, I initially do some testing myself and when the dish is where I like, it becomes kind of a free for all. Sometimes it’s just whoever is in the building at the time ranging from managers only to a bar full of guests.
Echo: Same question regarding recommended pairings?
Bielecki: I try to infuse our wine and beer into the cooking process as much as possible – this is especially highlighted in our carnitas tacos and IPA-glazed bacon (available on happy hour, too). We plan to do more with our pairings in the near future.
Echo: How often does the permanent menu change?
Bielecki: The menu is always evolving, that’s something that I value so much about working here. [The owners] really give me a lot of freedom and encourage me to always play around in the kitchen.
Echo: As a member of the LGBTQ community, what’s unique about working for LGBTQ business owners?
Bielecki: We stand for the same things. It’s an environment where we have an understanding of each other and have shared life experiences [and] culture.
Echo: What is your favorite trend that you’ve observed in the culinary scene recently?
Bielecki: I don’t like trends. I like to see chefs doing their own thing and following their own path – not just doing the cool new thing, but staying true to themselves.
Echo: The Valley’s culinary landscape has really taken off in recent years, becoming widely known as a “foodie destination.” What excites you most about being a part of this movement?
Bielecki: It’s always exciting to see an expansion in the culinary world. I love that people are supporting local – locally owned businesses, locally sourced ingredients, etc.
Echo: What is one food you can’t live without (either on your plate, in your kitchen, or both)? What’s the most under used ingredient in your opinion?
Bielecki: My answer to both is pickles. I’m obsessed with pickling everything and I’ve been playing with using different tea blends and even beer in pickling. One of my favorites is my chai spice pickled carrots.
Echo: What’s your favorite menu item and beverage offering at The OG?
Bielecki: Currently, my favorite menu item is either the Country Fried Portobello po’ boy or the Beef on Weck. The po’ boy is served on a French baguette with garlic aioli, pickled red onions, local tomatoes and greens. The Beef on Weck is our take on the Buffalo, New York, staple, with a caraway and smoked salt dusted bun, peppercorn crusted prime rib, horseradish aioli and crispy fried shallots, served with au jus for dipping. As far as drinks right now, I’m obsessed with West Meets East from High Water Brewing, it’s a a kiwi and kumquat sour ale aged in wine barrels – delicious!
Echo: Do you have any chefs you idolize and/or would like to work with one day?
Bielecki: Dominique Crenn, for so many reasons. I admire the kind of leader she is and I love what she stands for. She speaks her truth, she is compassionate, her kitchens seem so joyful and massively creative. It’s very inspiring.
Echo: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Bielecki: One thing I know for sure is I’ll still be creating and doing what I love to do every day.
Echo: Do you have any upcoming surprises for The OG that you can share with us at this time?
Bielecki: I always have a trick up my sleeve, I’m looking forward to seeing what the local purveyors have – a lot of those seasonal items will effect the direction the menu takes.
For more information on Original Gravity, visit ogphx.com.