There’s a lot to love about the Brava community and today we’re excited to highlight another member who inspires us in the kitchen. We’re sitting down with Brett Long – trained pastry chef, commercial food stylist, and culinary producer. We first met Brett when he worked as the lead food stylist on set while filming our latest broadcast commercial. A year later, Brett shares how Brava has changed the game for him in both his professional cooking and his kitchen at home.
Q: What’s your background with cooking – both professionally and personally, and how did you get to where you are today?
A: I grew up in the South, always in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother, who were our amazing cake bakers in the family. Every Sunday I looked forward to a big family meal, followed by a delicious baked dessert from my mom and grandmother – usually some kind of cake. Later, I studied broadcast journalism and worked in the field until I finally decided to follow what really fired me up and I left my job to go all in on food. I studied pastry at the French Culinary Institute in New York, which is now in the Institute of Culinary Education.
From there, I worked my way through restaurant and bakery kitchens on the Upper East Side of New York, eventually working my way up to be Head Pastry Chef. My most challenging but rewarding pastry job was working under Jacques Torres, who is iconic and incredibly well respected in the industry and culinary and pastry world. I was ready to cut my teeth in the industry beyond the restaurant kitchen and said yes to an opportunity from the Executive Chef for Disneyland in Anaheim. I moved to California and my first night visiting California happened to also be my first night living in California – so it was wild. That job was all about precision and cranking out such a high volume while coming up with never-been-done-before creative pastry ideas. I was asked to help out on set of a food tv show on one of my off days from work, and I just kept showing up until one day the executive producer officially hired me. From there – the food media work just snowballed to more TV production sets and commercial work. Almost ten and a half years later, I now split my time living and working between California and New York, doing everything from recipe development to commercial food media and styling work.
Q: That’s the coolest, most inspiring career journey. Fast forwarding to 2021 when you met the team at Brava – can you share what your first encounter with Brava was like and what it was like to use it for the first time?
A: I first heard about Brava when I was going to be working as the food stylist on set. On the day of the shoot I kept telling my assistant on set that my mind was blown that this thing was cooking with light, at the press of a button. In the advertising world I work on a lot of sets where these companies push out products that say they can do everything, but sometimes on set we’ll cook with that product and still have to beautify it using a bunch of other products and techniques. It seems like not as much forethought and thoughtfulness has gone into a lot of other kitchen products – so I was just shocked all day on set that Brava genuinely did what it said it would. Again, my mind was blown. I kept laughing and telling my assistant on set that day that I hoped the team at Brava didn’t think I was insane because every time we cooked something new in Brava it was shockingly beautiful and I kept telling the Brava team how crazy it was to see. Brava was cranking out these beautiful and delicious steaks, eggs, and baked goods. Not to mention that it could also bake, air-fry, dehydrate, sear, and more. It was like having another assistant and trusted set of hands at the shoot. This hadn’t existed before Brava and it’s revolutionary for me. I can trust the Brava blindly on set as a food stylist. If I cook a steak in Brava I know it’s going to come out looking billboard perfect, and it’s going to taste incredible.
Q: Now that we know how you use Brava for work – can you walk us through how you use Brava to cook in your kitchen at home?
A: I lean on Brava pretty heavily and cook with it more than my regular oven. I’m busy with long working days so if I grab a few ingredients in the morning, then for dinner I can have crispy salmon with cherry tomatoes and roasted asparagus at the press of a button. Why wouldn’t I do that? It takes the same amount of energy as ordering takeout after a long day but I save money, eat healthier, and I can get creative with the flavors. You just need to pick up a few groceries before the craziness of the work week starts and then at the end of the day with Brava you can put in the same effort as you would if you only had the energy to cook something like chicken nuggets, but you’re pressing a button and instead having this crazy delicious, pretty cheffy meal with crispy salmon or seared steak with gorgeous vegetables, it’s crazy!
Q: We have to know – what ingredients do you always have on hand and what’s your overall cooking style?
A: Oh man, I’m from the South so I really love comfort food. Frying things is kind of my love language. Making fried chicken for someone is kind of like – the ultimate Southern act of love and inviting them into your home. But besides that – I gravitate towards a lot of fresh ingredients from the farmer’s markets, and also lots of bold fresh flavors from various countries throughout Asia. Especially Korea – I love Korean food. I’m so spoiled in California with the fresh vegetables and fruits. I love to put together fresh dishes that look simple and but once you take a bite you realize one of the vegetables has a little char because it’s been roasted in the Brava, one has been pickled, one is crunchy and raw – so there’s a ton of texture going on which keeps it super exciting. I like every dish to feel like an adventure in the best way from start to finish with no room to get bored whatsoever.
One of the first things that I sort of started learning about when I was working in pastry is called “the law of diminishing utility”, where it’s like if you have an entire chocolate cake and you take the first bite and that’s going to be the best bite of that chocolate cake because after that, every bite tastes exactly the same so the last bite is kind of the worst, most boring bite. Because as you consume more of it, its utility becomes less and less and less because you had so much of the same flavor. Understanding that completely influenced me to always balance dishes so each bite is dynamic, never one-note. I put so much thought and preparation into every single element of each bite that goes into a dish. Brava makes it so easy to do that even when I’ve had a long work day.
Q: We love that so much. That’s a great tip for anyone looking to up their cooking and plating skills – to create lots of different flavors and textures to keep every bite exciting. What are some of your favorite Brava recipes?
A: The 20 Clove Garlic Chicken for sure – but when a recipe calls for a specific amount of garlic I’m the person that always adds more so it’s probably more like 30 to 40 cloves for me and it’s so so good. I also make a Brava breakfast sandwich a few times a week. Not that making a breakfast sandwich on the stove is difficult by any means, but there’s just something that’s really nice about being able to cook the bacon and the eggs at the same time to the doneness that you want without using a ton of pots and pans. And it’s so precise, which is great for a laser-focused pastry person like me. Pastry people love a spreadsheet and anything precise.
Also cannot get over the Margherita Pizza. You just cannot make a pizza like that in regular oven. Brava pizza gets those little bits of char and bubbles in a way that I’ve only seen done before in a pizza oven, but I don’t have to go outside and fire it up. I can just make this incredible pizza on my countertop?! It’s so fun.
Q: Yes! Sign us UP for Brava pizza night with Chef Brett! Do you have any Brava hacks or tips you recommend to anyone who just got a Brava?
A: There are so many recipes to choose from you really can’t go wrong and you’ll always get new inspiration with the recipe releases and just searching around. But as a “hack”, I’d say playing around with the manual “Sear” function and treating the combination of Brava “Sear” and the Brava Metal Tray as kind of a frying pan with crazy high heat – so I like to quickly sear some thinly sliced marinated steak and it’s so so good.
Q: Last but not least – who is inspiring you in the kitchen right now?
A: My friend Jessie Damuck, who I met on the set of Martha Stewart’s ‘Potluck Dinner Party’ on VH1 with Snoop Dogg. Jess has a book coming out soon called ‘Salad Freak’ and she is going to make so many people salad freaks because she’s putting dishes together that aren’t complicated but there’s just a ton of fresh ingredients, flavor, and texture. She’s from New York and lives in California now and the way she works with food is very very Californian – it’s just very fresh and also relaxed and not too difficult. If I pick up a bunch of farmer’s market produce and I’m looking for inspiration I always laugh and ask myself, “what would Jess do?”. Since meeting Jess I’ve experimented with a ton of different ways to add flavor into dishes – using lemon vinegars, swapping clementines into a recipe in place of oranges. Also – everything she makes also just looks incredible and fun to eat, which from a food stylist point of view is super fun.
Want to see what else our community is whipping up? Join the Brava Home’s Facebook Community and follow along on Instagram. Share your Brava creations with the hashtag #BravaLife for a chance to be featured!