Chef Chat, Part 2: Ronnie Killen of Killen's Steakhouse
We continue our chat with Chef Killen of Pearland's Killen's Steakhouse to learn the secrets about his crème brulee bread pudding and get the chef's response to Robb Walsh's unsavory review.
EOW: Tell me about how your crème brulee bread pudding has made Pearland an unlikely food destination.
Killen: During my training at Le Cordon Bleu, I learned the traditional way of making bread pudding with old bread. So I thought of how I could make mine different. I ended up using fresh croissants, which gives it a light airiness. Then I combined that with my crème brulee mixture that I use as the base. The result is something really nice and light, almost like a flan. The croissants give it a buttery, slightly salty flavor. It's not overly sweet or dense. I also add sun-dried apricots and blueberries to add a little sweetness and tartness to balance it out. Also, unlike the common bourbon sauce most places use, we use a brandy sauce. We first hydrate the raisins in the brandy. Then we add butter, Granny Smith apples, cinnamon sticks and brown sugar and then cook it until the apples candy.
EOW: What advice can you give to the home chef about recreating a steakhouse quality steak at home?
Killen: Here, all we use to season our steaks is kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. If you're cooking at home, I suggest getting a cast-iron skillet. Use oil with a high burn point so you can get it nice and hot to put a nice sear on the meat. Finish it off in the oven. The best thing to use is rendered beef fat. Here, we take the fat trimmings and reduce it down in the oven. Then we use the fat drippings to cook our steaks. What I like to say is that you need to first make the smoke alarm go off. Once it goes off, then you're ready to cook.
EOW: So one last question for you. Back in November, Robb Walsh ate here and gave a harsh review. Would you like to respond to it?
Killen: It is what it is. Everyone's entitled to his opinion. At the time, my son was in the hospital because of a horse accident. He was on a feeding tube for over four months. It was a really tough time. So I was not in the kitchen as much. I actually lost about 230 pounds because of what happened with my son. But things happen for a reason. What Robb's review did was make us better and stronger as a whole. We had the systems in place to ensure quality but, in my absence, we had to hire inexperienced help and shit happens. But I have no hard feelings anymore. I welcome Robb back here anytime he's willing to come.
EOW: Wow, you're much more gracious than I would have been in your whites.
Killen: Don't get me wrong. When I read his review, I was pissed. I didn't like how he never actually tasted the steak. I also didn't like that some things were left out. Like how Robb said Bebout's appetite was ruined for the rest of the evening. That wasn't true. After they sent the steak back, they had crab cakes and other things. They even had dessert. I know because I saw the ticket. The entire meal was also comped. [Editor's note: Walsh's porterhouse was comped, but not the rest of the meal. We have the receipt.] But like I said, it is what it is.
Tomorrow we finish our visit with Chef Killen some seared meat and creamed corn.