Brian Huskey: Boss of Sauce
By Jesy Odio '15
Published Feb 26, 2014 8:00 AM
Competing on Top Chef spiced up this Bruin's culinary career.
A restaurant is generally thought of as a public and social setting, but the life of a chef is often private and lived behind swinging doors. This was the case for Brian Huskey until he was put on the spotlight as one of the 19 ‘cheftestants’ for Bravo’s Top Chef ’s Season 11. “It’s like summer camp but with knives,” Huskey says.
The reality TV show sent the contestants to New Orleans to experiment with the Louisiana mixture of French and Spanish cuisine. Whether Huskey was using a Cajun oven for the first time or bringing familiar recipes to the competition, his passion for cooking showed in and out of the kitchen, and on and off camera. He describes Top Chef as an experience to hone and refine his gastronomic skills. “As a chef, it’s best to know your strengths and weaknesses. With your weaknesses, instead of being scared of them, cultivate them. There’s always room for improvement.”
With his partly bleached hair and dark-rimmed glasses, the Pasadena native is now recognized around Los Angeles as he makes the rounds from restaurant to restaurant. “I’d be lying if I said no one comes up to me daily—at least one to five people,” he says about his overnight stardom.
But before Huskey decided to follow his culinary dreams, he studied Economics at UCLA. Later, he earned a degree in culinary arts at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, and his love for food took him as far as the Caribbean to explore different kinds of cuisine. Now, he has a keen interest in bringing a Peruvian, Asian, Californian blend into his recipes. One of the challenges Huskey won on Top Chef was for his jalapeño and serrano hot sauce with lime and yuzu juices. “I’m a big sauce guy. I take pride in understanding how to balance sauces and creating tasty ones,” he says. In fact, he plans to bottle his hot sauce and make it available for purchase.
When he’s not at Pauley Pavilion watching UCLA basketball, Huskey stays deeply involved in the L.A. culinary scene. Over the past ten years, he has helped chef Ricardo Zarate open three Peruvian restaurants around the city: Picca, Mo-Chica and Paiche. However, Huskey has announced that he will soon be ready to break new ground of his own in downtown L.A. “It’s been 10 years of cultivating my culinary voice through the wonderful chefs I’ve trained under. Now it’s time to put it all together, interpret everything I’ve learned, and create my own voice.”