Chamber News & Views: Millennial chefs create new dining opportunities
September 24, 2017
Carson City's dining scene is changing to reflect the style of the Millennials who are the defining the way we eat today and in the future.
Studies conducted by the various national restaurant associations show major chains are reducing their menu offerings and revising their menus to reflect the tastes of this group -now larger than the Boomers- so they may remain relevant and successful. Even the layout of the restaurants reflects the more casual way the Millennials like to dine.
Though this generation is not billed as a social group because of their perceived preference to socialize with their cell phones rather than people, popular are the family tables that may seat up to 10 or more making it less daunting to dine alone, and in the case of larger groups, easier to seat than having to drag tables and chairs around.
Yes, the tried and true foods we have always loved will remain on the menu, the young chefs understand not every diner is adventuresome. Comfort foods will be served — but expect new twists, fresh locally sourced meats and vegetables, and, in some cases smaller plates. Our new chefs seem especially health-conscious. As for libations — expect locally brewed beverages to be featured.
Within the last few months, two new restaurants have opened to serve us. They are side-by-side and though different in concept, they are alike in the chef's passion for freshness and the passion to succeed. The chefs featured both have financial stake in their venture.
We hope you will enjoy the offerings of The Union and Battle Born Social and support these young Millennial Executive Chefs who are as excited about being in Carson City as we are having them here.
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Meet Tommy Linnett, Executive Chef at Carson's newest eatery, The Union.
This energetic 34-year-old chef has burst on the Carson dining scene bringing with him a lifetime of restaurant experience and the right kind of "can do" attitude to complement our freshly minted city.
Tommy is not a newbie to the restaurant scene, having grown up around food all his life as the son of the owner of the successful restaurants in Squaw Valley and Truckee, Calif. He states, "I've done just about everything there is to do in a restaurant — busboy, server, bar back before graduating to line cook."
However, when he went to college — St. Mary's in Moraga, Calif. — he did not pursue a degree in the culinary arts, opting instead to earn degrees in business and Spanish. Following graduation, he decided to live for a bit in Buenos Aires to immerse himself in the culture, language, and food.
Returning to his roots in Truckee, he decided to put his business degree to beneficial use by selling real estate. He soon realized, this was not his forte, deciding to return to his culinary roots by attending the Arizona Culinary Institute in Scottsdale.
Coming to Reno in 2010, Tommy walked into the Reno Campo's seeking employment stating, "Owner Mark Estee thought I wanted a job as a server, but I told him I wanted to be in the kitchen."
The two personalities clicked and Estee hired him on to make salads; two days later he was behind the grill.
"I loved the training I received from Mark Estee, the best teacher ever, and learned so much about the importance of buying and serving locally sourced foods and how to butcher fresh meats."
Estee taught him how to cook from scratch along with the art of butchering whole pigs and lambs. This young chef is proud to be able to serve sausages made fresh and cased on premise.
Since Campo's was growing and Estee had opened a new restaurant in Mammoth, Calif., Tommy was asked to serve as Sous Chef and within six months, he was named Executive Chef, a title he held for two years before returning to Reno as Campo's Executive Chef. He says, "In Mammoth, I was able to learn to run the kitchen, prepare a menu and do all the tasks required of an executive chef."
Tommy took a bit of time off to hike the entire Rim Trail before Estee once again contacted his protégée, offering him an opportunity to become a partner and the executive chef at The Union in Carson City. The same opportunity was offered to his friend and co-worker Nick Meyer (30) who served as general manager at Campo's. Nick and Tommy worked well together and are working well together once again, reprising their former roles. However, this time, they are financial partners in the venture making them even more committed to the success of The Union.
As I toured the restaurant — even being closeted for a few minutes within the walk-in refrigerator — with this talkative and proud chef, I was struck by the enthusiasm Tommy has for his "adopted city." He is enthusiastic about the availability of local foods and the opportunity to create exciting fresh plates.
On any given day and in season, you will find berries sourced from Jacobs Berry Farm in Gardnerville; produce from Valley Aquaponics (formerly Hungry Mother) in Dayton; lamb from Ted Borda's farm in Gardnerville; and beef from Bentley Ranch, in Minden. I was able to see and taste some of the fresh fruits.
Estee and Tommy create the menu paying attention to what the locals prefer. The menu changes every three months. What's the most popular item on the current menu? "I think because we are a brewery, Carsonites want the types of food generally offered in breweries: hamburgers, chicken wings, our home-made pasta and, of course, the pizza from our own wood fired pizza oven," was his answer. Weekends, though, he is able to be create magical dishes served as the specials.
Today, Tommy and Mark oversee a staff of 30: 50 in the front of the house and 20 kitchen staff.
The sign on the building reads: Eatery. Tap House. Coffee. The Eatery is in place — and expanding — the tap house is soon to open as is the coffee bar.
The center section — featuring TVs — will seat up 75 as overflow from the main dining area and can be reserved for private parties — the holidays are coming up, after all!
Hub Coffee Roasters will open soon on the Curry Street side offering a comfortable downtown space to work, sip, and enjoy fresh pastries. Weather permitting, there is an outdoor component.
The in-house brewery is expected to open in time for Nevada Day. The Union website heralds the new restaurant as "bringing Nevada's independent spirit to the capital." This independent spirit is found in Chef Tommy and General Manager Nick Meyer. They are both bringing in a fresh, young attitude to complement our fresh downtown.
The Union is attracting all ages and is providing yet another dining opportunity in the downtown core. Enjoy the creativity of Chef Tommy and the hospitality of Mark Meyer and his staff of excellent servers at 301 N. Carson St., 885-7307.
If it's a taste of Nevada you want in food or drink, try Battle Born Social. Owner David Stern says, "We have the best bartenders in town making the best cocktails featuring Nevada made spirits and beer."
Stern is a talented chef trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., believing "the less you put in a dish, the more you get out of it by being able to taste the unique flavors with each forkful." He takes what he terms as traditional American fare and adds a few twists to create an American Nouveau taste experience. For him, it's all about minimalism and creating menus to the way people eat today — less fats, less gluten, smaller portions.
Born on Long Island, N.Y., he grew up in an Italian family where food reigned supreme and brought family together. It was through his family he learned the art of cooking and the importance of tasty food. The family moved to Southern California when he was 7, and when he was 16, he got his first taste of working in a restaurant environment at a small family-owned restaurant in Temecula. It was here he learned how to bus, serve and wash dishes working his way up to line cook.
On his way to ownership of his own restaurant, Stern worked in many kitchens — large and small. He worked for Outback Steak House for 7 years in various locations including Reno. You may have seen him at the Imperial Bar & Lounge and the Melting Pot in Reno. He worked for Charlie Palmer Steak as sous chef for three years and as executive chef at SoDo for two years.
Currently living in Minden as a single day of two kids, Stern, 35, found his way to Carson City by serving as the Executive Chef at Mystique. He saw the closure of Mystique as an opportunity to open his own restaurant and bar completely creating a fresh look in the same space by bringing the bar into the main dining area. The look today reflects his penchant for informality and socializing. He and his father built the tables and created the casual look using woods for warmth.
After almost five months of learning to understand the culinary whims of Carsonites, expect to see a revised menu featuring larger plates offering more traditional fare, though he will continue to feature his signature small bites stating, "Now that the fall/winter season is upon us, we will be offering comfort foods and the smaller bites will satisfy those who like to share and socialize."
In all his cooking, the emphasis is to use mostly locally sourced foods, thus expect seasonal fresh foods as much as possible.
Stern is proud of his two Happy Hours: 3-6 p.m. for the day working crowd and 9 p.m. until closing for those working the evening shift. From Tuesday through Saturday, the bar features specials, drawing the young professionals that have the energy to drink, dine and dance the night away with top DJs.
The goal is to be on the "list" when people think of going out to dine. His take on Carson City dining? "This city has lots of potential for being a dining mecca and is slowly starting to reach that potential."
With the enthusiastic support of locals, this restaurant is already a Carson City staple. Talented David Stern is ready to please and has already been booking his eclectic space for holiday parties. Battle Born Social is at 318 N. Carson St., 301-6695.