Why We Love Maximillian Petty
Maxmillian is a poet who translates his creativity to what’s on the plate. And it shows. From foie gras cake batter to a pig head candy bar, everything he makes is unquestionably delicious and unexpected.
“It’s very emotional cooking, it’s what inspires me daily.”
“Seeing the surprise on people’s faces when they have something I make is why I do what I do. It’s really a great feeling.”
Why do you think people are interested in eating your food?
My goal when I opened Eden Hill to make people interested was food that reminded you of home but you couldn’t make at home. So, there are similar flavors, but it’s a little bit whimsical, and with techniques and presentations you’d never, ever do at home. I buy the fun tools and do the techniques you wouldn’t do yourself, so it gives you a reason to go out and dine at my place.
Are you pulling inspiration from a particular place or memory with your food and its naming?
I’ll kind of harness my memory or inspiration. I come from a big family, so a lot comes from that. I came up with ‘Lick the Bowl,’ for example, the inspiration was Mom’s dirty kitchen counter. Some of my greatest memories are licking the bowl from when she made cookies. I think a lot of people have stuff like that, but they don’t really remember them. But, it’s my job now to access those through food, which is a lot of our childhood memories, family and closeness. I’m just trying to get people to remember the simpler times and use the names, flavors and plating to all bring them back.
Does your interest in poetry and rap factor into your cooking at all?
For sure, I love music. I’m constantly singing. I can’t play music—I’m horrible if I touch any instrument. But I always enjoyed the endless opportunities and options you could do with music. But I was really good with food and I could approach it in a similar way, where I could ‘play’ food. There are endless options, flavors, and if you can play well, it makes your job fun. I don’t rap anymore—I’m a retired rapper now. If I couldn’t be a chef, I’d be a musician, but I just can’t do it. I tried though!
What music are you listening to now?
I have four older sisters, so I have the musical preference of a 35-year-old woman. Right now, I listen to a lot of Whitney Houston. I do the Adelle, Sam Smith, thing. A lot of rap and pop as well. I can sing every Madonna song ever written, which is embarrassing, but I enjoy it. As far as rap, I still listen to a lot of old rap—I can’t really understand it anymore, maybe it’s just the dad in me now. At the restaurant we’re constantly listening to music, though. Music goes into the food a lot.
What would you describe avant garde cooking?
I think being not afraid to take risks with some of the opportunities and sciences we have. Challenging the guest is kind of my avant garde approach. The term sounds a little pretentious, but to me, I’m making sure that a guest is seeing into my mind while I’m having fun while cooking and having these ideas. Because if it doesn’t translate, I’m just another restaurant. So I make sure it does by pushing it to the edge with techniques and taking risks. If we do some new thing that takes three days to make, the guest will see that, and if it doesn’t, well, I wasted three days and life goes on. It’s a fun process of testing the limits and never giving up on the fun side of it.
How do you push boundaries in the kitchen with your tools or techniques?
Since I started Eden Hill, we’ve gotten all the fanciest toys. But I’ll get creative mostly from having a small kitchen. If I wanted to make sea bubbles I want to put on oysters, everyone uses a hand blender for that. I think after the fourth time my blender fell over and spilled everywhere, I bought a fish tank and a fish tank bubbler and put my liquid in there. And it worked great! Or, for instance, we go through 200 gallons of liquid nitrogen a week. Not because I want to be a mad scientist, but because we have no freezer space, and it makes it really easy to make ice cream and use it for oysters. It’s about utilizing things to be creative but also make my kitchen more efficient.
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