Posted by cmh gourmand on August 19, 2012
In this post, several of my worlds collide. Since Inner Circle has a loose Clintonville connection, I am cross posting this here as well in Street Eats. Sadly, I am so busy at work, I have not had time to do any blogging on the job at the Food Fort….I barely have time to Twitter most days. Rich Stewart is one of our commissary clients but I feel this post is still objective….so here we go. Plus, I am trying to get my readers retrained to seeing posts one to two times per week from CMH Gourmand, so consider this practice as well.
Inner Circle appeared on the scene early this summer to good reviews. Rich Stewart is Commander and Chef in Chief of the Cart. Vegans and Carnivores have had rave reviews of his homemade vegan sausages. He is in the process and refining stages of other items including burgers and more. The cart has hit the circuit this summer at St. James Tavern Mobile Mondays, Goodale Park Music Series, Pattycake Bakery and elsewhere.
In regards to the sausages, having sampled several I can say – wow. I think many people have low expectations for vegan food, especially in tubed form. In the case of Inner Circle, take your expectations, raise them by the power of ten and you will still find your expectations exceeded. The sausages have great texture and spicing. Placed in a fresh bun with ingredients that enhance the natural flavors of Rich’s hand crafted links and the result is flavor explosion.
This may be a Street Eats first, but an interview with Rich is included in this post as well. Read on Mobile Food lovers.
How long were you at Dragonfly?
I was with Dragonfly for nine months. Chef Magdiale Wolmark is a genius, glad to have had that experience.
What other places have you worked at?
I spent time with another great Columbus chef in Hubert Siefert at Spagio, also stints at The Lakes Golf & Country Club in Westerville, Digger & Finch in Dublin, Whole Foods here as well as in Chicago, and a stint at Green Zebra in the Windy City.
Where are you working now when not out with the cart?
I needed health insurance and more reasonable hours for my two five-year old children, so I took a job on the opening team with Market District, then transferred to a Giant Eagle within walking distance to my home.
What inspired the cart?
Another chef friend of mine John Franke and I were going to collaborate on two carts or a truck that had his omnivorous cuisine, with my vegan versions of each item. He ended up taking a sous position and had no time for the project. I didn’t have the funds to get a truck on my own so I went with the cart. I want to bring affordable vegan cuisine to my patrons so I started with the sausages, I’m building on that.
What would you like to do after the cart or in conjunction with it.
I do some catering as well, I catered a vegan waffle bar brunch wedding reception earlier in the summer, . I’d really like to find a bar with a working but vacant kitchen and move inside once the weather gets too cold. I know there are enough vegans (and vegan food loving non vegans) in Columbus to be successful. I’d like to have a truck next year if I can get a good following this season and convince a lender that I’d be a good investment.
Any new menu items for the summer.
A new sausage that’s inspired by the vegan favorite falafel, a tempeh meatball sub and a vegan burger.
What inspired you to do the sausages and how long did it take you to perfect the recipe?
My cart is designed to be a hot dog cart. The gas grill and steam wells make it very conducive for my sausages. I don’t have the storage space for a large variety, so a few sausages and soup fit nicely. Everyone likes a sausage sandwich and I didn’t want to use store-bought vegan ones. I don’t much care for those anyway and wanted to showcase my skills as an accomplished chef. It took a few trials to get a product that had a mouth feel of a meat sausage. My girlfriend, parents, kids and friends got to try each stage of the process.
Other than love is there a secret ingredient in the sausages that you might want to hint at.
I add a VERY smokey paprika to my sausages. It’s my favorite non maple syrup (true love) ingredient to add to anything.