Russell Klein of Meritage and Brasserie Zentral's Essentials

Five things the founder of Meritage and Brasserie Zentral can’t live without

Annual bivalve bash: Some of the oyster farmers we work with for our Oysterfest (Oct. 11 at Meritage) have retail operations, so it’s possible to order a bag shipped overnight to your door from both coasts. But shucking is a lot of work! We have about 100 shuckers on hand, plus some professional ringers, to get through the 25,000 bi-valves we serve at Oysterfest. Not to mention a bunch of big-name chefs racing to see who can get through a dozen oysters the fastest without shanking themselves.

Oyster shucking tools: A good, sturdy oyster knife and a towel or glove. And Band-Aids, lots and lots of Band-Aids.

Tip for a flavorful plate: It’s almost a cliché among chefs, but the older I get, the more restrained my cooking has been getting. More often than not we look to see what we can remove from a dish so we get to the core of the flavors we are after. The secret to doing that at home? Cook seasonally, buy good ingredients, and get the hell out of the way!

Pantry staple: Really good extra virgin olive oil.

Lunchtime combo: We did [Zentral’s wine bar] Foreign Legion’s grilled cheese menu for my wife, Desta. Her favorite is the classic American cheese with a bowl of our tomato-lemongrass soup. 

Illustration by James Kloiber