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CrabFest 2023


Chef's Kitchen

Each month, a guest chef gives us a tip that elevates their cooking or simplifies things in the kitchen; something a home cook might not know. They also provide a recipe that uses the tip, so you can practice at home. Our guest chef this month is Co-owner/Executive Chef Charlie Martin(i) of Martini Brunch in Mount Vernon. At this breakfast lounge, you'll find, oddly, breakfast and lunch items, creative cocktails, and upbeat music. Flavor and fun, people, flavor and fun.

Charlie (they/them) has spent over 40 years in the industry, starting at the age of 16 (really 15, but lied to get the job) in Bountiful, Utah. Charlie started as a dishwasher but after 3-4 months began cooking and stayed until the age of 18. They then traveled to Italy and their whole idea about food exploded. Back from Italy, Charlie attended the Culinary Institute of America, graduating in 1990, and began working at The Inn at Little Washington, staying for a few years. They then started managing restaurants for California Pizza Kitchen, opening locations in Arizona, Texas, and California, leaving to take a regional position with Whole Foods on the East Coast. In 2012, Charlie was on Food Network with Anne Burrell then did private catering in the Los Angeles area. In 2022, Charlie and wife/partner Brooke moved to Mount Vernon to open Martini Brunch.

How to create more inspired dishes, by Executive Chef Charlie Martin(i)

The advice or tip I would offer anyone wanting to create more inspired dishes is this-and I learned this later in my culinary career than I should have. But once I did, my repertoire grew fast and furious. There are no rules in food. There's nothing you can't or shouldn't do, aside from the obvious like serving broken glass or hemlock. If it tastes really good, that's what matters. All of the old pairings like rosemary and chicken, bacon and eggs, peanut butter and chocolate, are marvelous, but it's really redeeming to venture off into your own creative discoveries.

That said, I'm mostly bothered by the bastardization of classic elements in cooking. We owe it to the originators of classic dishes to pay appropriate homage to their work. I've seen eggs Benedict mounted atop steak and potatoes; I've seen a massive plate of biscuits drowning in thin "hollandaise." I've seen tacos made in a Bundt pan. All of this reminds me that the end times must surely be upon us. I, for one, will always treat ingredients with the love and respect they deserve.

In my kitchen, we make about twenty-five pounds of hollandaise a week. Eggs Benedict is consistently one of our best-selling dishes, and my hollandaise is prepared classically and perfectly every morning. It's quite simple-with two basic ingredients and some seasoning-but it requires attention and patience. If you can master hollandaise, you'll have no shortage of friends and lovers.

I usually make between four and seven pounds at a time. For the sake of ease, I'll spell out a small batch.

Classic Hollandaise Sauce

Martini Brunch's avocado eggs Benedict


  • 1 lb of really good butter-yes, salted
  • 3 egg yolks
  • Lemon juice
  • Tabasco
  • Good salt


  1. First and foremost, make sure you have romantic lighting set in your kitchen as well as calming music.
  2. Place the butter in a microwave for three to four minutes. I haven't had a microwave in my house for as long as I can remember, but I keep one at the shop because I often need to melt something fast. Ideally, your butter should reach 190° F.
  3. While your butter is in the micro, put your yolks into a stainless or copper bowl, add a few drops of hot water and whisk over simmering water. This process is a lot like driving. Sometimes you put your foot on the accelerator and sometimes you ease up on it. Let the bottom of your bowl touch the simmering water occasionally, but pull it up off the water so you don't scramble your eggs. You should be whisking oh so frantically much of the time. You want to slowly cook the yolks until they become custardy. This probably takes about six and a half minutes for three yolks. (The classic formula is always two yolks per pound of butter, but I add a third yolk because I'm a cheating scoundrel and the extra yolk gives me a more stable custard.)
  4. Working quickly, set your bowl on the counter, remove your butter from the micro, and begin drizzling your melted butter into your custard slowly, while whisking. If your hands are sore from years of whisking, you can do this in a kitchen aid stand mixer.
  5. As you drizzle the butter in, you'll find the custard becoming thickish. Drizzle in a little hot water to keep it velvety. Once you've drizzled all the butter-avoiding drizzling in the butter solids in the bottom-add a couple dashes of Tabasco. Not for heat. We do this for acid and depth of flavor. Add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice, salt to taste, and adjust your consistency with hot water. Always err on the side of thick. She gotta be thick. The sauce should coat your eggs, asparagus, or salmon like a luscious blanket that stands up on the dish.

September 2023

Martini Brunch
1300 S 2 nd Street
Mount Vernon, WA 98273

Martini Brunch | Mount Vernon WA | Facebook

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