“I consider creatine to be an essential food group. Sometimes I’ll sprinkle it into a risotto. I call it ‘brosotto.’ It’s in the same spirit as the ‘fruit and brogurt parfait’ and ‘broatmeal.’”
This is the 7th commandment of the Culinary Bro-Down, the blog that brought you the ramnuts, donuts made of ramen, recently featured on Buzzfeed. Whoa. The first impression I got of this kid was that he’s a meathead with some culinary skills, a combination of YouTubers Dom Mazzetti and Epic Meal Time. However, the more I clicked through his blog with titles in bold capslock letters, practically yelling the names of outrageous, sometimes monstrous innovations (including the shocking McConsensual-Group-Sex-Burger), the more obvious it became that there was more to this guy below the “Smirnoff as a rolling pin” surface.
Recently, I had a heart-to-heart with Josh Scherer, the “bro” (spoiler alert: he doesn’t actually identify as one, though he does love tanks and backwards caps) behind Culinary Bro-Down. When asked the classic quirky icebreaker question of what he’d be if he were a food, he answered, “something gnarly with a slight identity crisis. Maybe the KFC parfait bucket.” Lover of kale, supporter of veganism, and political science student at UCLA, Josh was not kidding.
Josh comes from humble culinary beginnings. “I was raised in a house of fast food and lean pockets – lean pockets not hot pockets, because that was healthier according to my family.” Josh now actively rebels against the environment in which he was raised: the forced convenience and artificial nutrition of prepackaged food. He was brought out of this sad existence by the era of the Food Network, specifically the show Ask Aida. At the time he was just a 14-year-old with a crush on a blogger chef with all the answers, but it snowballed into a insatiable passion for the world of food.
Being in Los Angeles, Josh has been spoiled by a high level of food culture, especially living next to food truck lot. Specifically drawn to “high-class stoner-chic cuisine,” Josh eats and makes “trashy food” grounded in real technique, finesse and skill. Present in his posts about these creations is his witty intellect, also apparent during our conversation. When asked about his biggest inspirations he names Future of Junk Food, a pop-up restaurant whose MO is “recreating everyone’s favorite junk food with hyperlocal, seasonal ingredients, but this time around… using higher end ingredients like truffles, foie, uni and caviar.” Dishes that have come out of this include a “cool ranch” beef cheek gordita, a tuna “pizza,” and a “filet o’ fish” made with squid ink, peekytoe crab, and uni–right up Josh’s alley.
He does warn against the abundance of trash that is created by and comes with the inundation of hybrid and fusion food. Josh says with disdain, “now you’re getting people throwing teriyaki sauce on carne asada and calling it Korean BBQ.” He says of his self-professed favorite dish, the ramen poutine with miso oxtail gravy, “it’s one dish that defines my culinary perspective/life in general.” In the blog post detailing its inspiration and recipe, the message is clear: the “bro” has a genuine respect for food and its origins – in his own words, almost a fetish for the culinary arts.
He details his training with an almost sheepish self-confidence. He started his more formal training with Tom Colicchio’s Think Like a Chef and has also picked up some business acumen on the corporate side of the restaurant world during an internship at Plan Check. This favorite restaurant of Josh’s is a gastropub that boasts burgers similar to those of Umami, “but better.” He has also worked with Kris Morningstar, a chef honored with a Michelin star and known for his creativity, at Patina restaurant. Morningstar saw promise in Josh when they met at a compete-against-a-celebrity-chef TV show run-through and took him in to show him the ropes of the cooking side of a restaurant.
Some of my personal Culinary Bro-Down favorites include the spicy tuna corn dog and the chorizo mac n’ cheese quesadilla. Josh says the sushi corn dog is one of his more spontaneous creations inspired by sushi burritos sold in the food truck near his house and the flavor profile of Roy Choi’s furikake kettle corn (aka crack corn). The mac n’ cheese quesadilla sparks a whole other kind of conversation. When I asked about his opinion on boxed mac n’ cheese’s he sighed in desperation and exclaimed that “Kraft is the worst” and that we should just make it ourselves, it’s so easy.
He takes issue with how society experiences food on a day-to-day basis. He shares an anecdote about how he was tasked in an environmental science class to create a low income day’s meal plan (less than $3) that achieves a certain nutritional level. His mind immediately shot to white rice, a high density vegetable and some sort of protein. He found it troubling that some students thought the task was impossible because not even the cheapest frozen pizza could satisfy the nutritional parameters (it contained too much sodium). The growing dependence on processed, pre-packaged convenience bothers him, and he strives to spread the message of the importance of learning to cook so we don’t take for granted where it all comes from.
So how did he get into blogging? He sees the blog as a “no entry fee, no activation energy needed” way to get his name out there and a way to a land a job in the future. And it clearly worked; Culinary Bro-down has been lauded by many. Not only have many of his creations been featured on the likes of Thrillist and Buzzfeed, but he was also a “Best Writing” finalist in Saveur’s 2014 Best Food Blog Awards and named one of Thrillist’s “16 Instagram Accounts to follow for Some Serious Foodporn” (@culinarybrodown).
Josh sighs that he doesn’t know if the brand is something that’s sustainable, but now people (including Arby’s, who is a new sponsor) depend on that persona. The real story is that along with the recipes of his creations, he tackles real issues: “The McConsesual-Group-Sex-Burger & How America Came to Be So Fat,” “Ramen Poutine & Bridging Cultural Gaps Through Fusion Food,” “Chimichurri Cauliflower Steak & My Sincere Thoughts on Veganism,” “Funnel Cake Burger & On the Concept of #Foodp*rn,” etc. His posts may be rooted in fun, but they are not trivial at heart.
So what’s he got coming down the pipeline after graduation? “Well, I’m not gonna work in a lab doing political science.” Though Josh was offered a job as a prep cook on a crew with his mentor Morningstar, Josh is really more passionate about food writing. He casually mentions that there’s currently a cookbook proposal in the works. Further, he’s now writing for Epicurious.com who brought him on to the site to add some personality, of which he and Culinary Bro-Down have plenty. There he logs things ranging from “Amateur Observations From a Professional Kitchen: That Time I Worked a Pop-Up With Kris Morningstar” to “15 Spicy Hangover Cures From Around the World.”
He’s considering some food writing for a website publication that focuses on public policy and social change – an opportunity that would allow him to leverage his political science education with his love for food and writing.
When I prodded him about his go-to hangover cure he said Diet Monsters, greasy burgers and Tyler Perry movies – “No seriously! For Colored Girls is emotionally purging!” Bizarre, yes, but this earnest enthusiasm makes me inclined to believe him. Josh is an intensely self- and socially-aware, down-to-earth guy with a mission to revolutionize how we experience food through his insane creations and writing and a focus on authenticity. An eloquent writer with an eye for oddity, Josh Scherer doesn’t take himself too seriously while he makes food gone stupid with some thoroughly smart twists.