We had the pleasure to interview the mastermind behind the 404 Kitchen located in Nashville, TN.
So tell us Chef Bolus, when did you begin cooking? What is your background?
B: I started cooking very young. My mother and father both had full time careers and I did it as a way to help out around the house. I grew up in east Tennessee on 23 acres of woods with a 5 acre pond just behind the house that I would often fish in before going to school. Both my parents had full time careers, my father with a corporation based in Knoxville and my mother a boarding kennel on the property. I worked in restaurants through and a little after college. Directly after college I worked as a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch and was in that position for three years until I realized I hated every day of my life in that business and would rather be cooking.
I resigned the next day and in a long story short, sold everything, moved to England, studied at Cordon Bleu as well as doing an apprenticeship as a fishmonger and butcher. I have been cooking ever since returning to the states.
That is very interesting. What was the concept behind the 404 Kitchen? Inspirations?
B: The concept at The 404 is upscale fare in an unpretentious atmosphere, locally sourced (when possible, I don’t trade quality for locality) with sustainability being our primary concern. I get my inspirations from so many things it’s hard to list. I find inspiration in nature, on a farm, in a market, while reading, from music, and sometimes I just wake up dreaming about things I want to cook.
What made you want to offer such an extensive Whisky Collection at your venue?
B: Whiskey is my true hobby, my second passion to food. I wanted to offer such a broad selection so I could be around, talk about, and pass on that passion to guests.
What is your personal relationship with Whisky? Do you remember your first Dram?
B: My relationship with whiskey started young in life which kind of sounds bad but I’ll explain. My whole family is from Louisville, Kentucky. My great uncle was one of the chief litigators for Brown Forman when they started to acquire the distilleries. Mint Juleps were the one thing I was allowed to taste as a child, but only on Derby day. I’ve been around it all my life which maybe why I love it so much. I don’t remember my first dram per se, but I am sure it was Jack Daniels. That was the Tennessee whiskey of choice for my dad.
Pairing food with whisky seems like a daunting task. How do you tackle that situation?
B: Pairing food with whiskey can be a daunting task indeed. I think it is even harder to pair a whiskey on the rocks or neat with food than it is when the whiskey is part of a cocktail. But like a great mixologist won’t change a cocktail for food I never change a dish for a beverage pairing, every ingredient is used for a reason whether or not it pairs well with alcohol or not. I pair food with whiskey in three ways.
The first is by tasting the whiskey. I will often think of a dish we are cooking at the time or one we have done before. When that happens we put a dish together and try the particular whiskey, and sometimes other similar whiskeys, to see if we have a match. Second, as I am tasting food we have on the menu or are developing for the menu I will find some that remind me of a flavor or sweetness of a whiskey that I have had and we will then again try the dish with the dram. Finally, sometimes I will simply think of the ingredients and/or flavor profiles of a dish and imagine each separately thinking about what whiskey would go well with them.
Can you name some signature dishes that pair well with certain whisky at the 404 Kitchen?
B: Hands down my first thought and favorite pairing would be our pork bolognese with the James E. Pepper 15 year rye. And my second, and not a distant second by any means, would be our lamb sugo paired with The Dredges from Widow Jane.
That sounds very delicious. What are you top 10 drams to try at the 404 Kitchen?
B: In no particular order:
Reservoir, Wheat, 100 proof from Richmond, Virginia
St. George, Single Malt, 86 proof from Alameda, California
Michter’s, Toasted (2014), 91.4 proof from Louisville
Kentucky Old Forester, 1920 Prohibition, 115 proof from Louisville, Kentucky
Orphan Barrel, Forged Oak, 15 year, 90.5 proof from Tullahoma, Tennessee
(bottled Willett, “3 Little Pigs”, 13 year, 128.2 proof from Bardstown, Kentucky
Pikeville, Straight Rye, 110 proof from Bardstown, Kentucky
Whistlepig, The 404 Private Barrel, 111.9 proof from Shoreham, Vermont
Quiet Man, 8 year Irish Whiskey, 80 proof from Derry, North Ireland J
ack Daniel’s, Sinatra, 90 proof from Lynchburg, Tennessee
If you could only drink one whisky for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
B: Hands down, without question Willett Family Reserve Rye, 8 year, barrel #7!!!!
The Whisky market is becoming a global phenomenon, how do you see times changing and other countries like Japan and Taiwan becoming big whisky players?
B: The whiskey market is massive and growing every day, both in amount being made and in popularity. I love the fact that Japan and Taiwan have jumped into the market. I think both cultures are known to be avid students of the masters and the recent releases have proven they know what they are doing. I’m excited to see what is yet to come. We can’t forget though that other countries are also in the whiskey game. Germany, France, Canada, and India all have exceptional pours that should be tried when available.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the Tastethedram readers?
B: Please drink responsibly, don’t drink vodka!
Thank you to Chef Bolus for this opportunity. We are looking forward to seeing what his future holds and will be following his journey.