Chef Chat, Part 1: Trevor White Has Morton's Grille Serving Up Some Fine Food
Photo by Mai Pham The Tot'cho's, or tater tot nachos, are a big hit on the new Morton's Grille menu.
EOW: If you do find a problem, where do you usually find the areas that you can improve? Is it with a particular role or person?
TW: Traditionally, it's just recipe adherence, which means the employee who's making the dish is not following the recipe, or they have the wrong product. We really like to follow our prep list, because we really regulate how much they make depending on volume of business. With Morton's, The Oceanaire and Morton's Grille, our chefs are very, very good about following procedure in the restaurant. We're very big on if you're making a dish, a recipe has to be in front of you. There's a reason why we develop recipes for them. We don't go by memory. People ask me, "Do you know what's in this?" and I'm like, "Get the recipe out." You have to follow the recipe. And that's all for quality control. When you have 70 Morton's worldwide, 12 Oceanaires and now our first Morton's Grille, we can't be in the restaurant every day, so we have to set guidelines for each chef and each employee, to make sure it's consistent across all the restaurants.
EOW: Let's segue to the new Morton's Grille, which just opened in The Woodlands. It's a brand-new concept under the Morton's family. For people who don't know what it is, what is it supposed to be?
TW: It's just good, approachable food. It's definitely a lower-tier restaurant than Morton's, lower price point.
EOW: But you do serve the steaks. Is it the same price point or lower?
TW: For our steaks, a little less price point. But we really don't take ourselves too seriously. We have the Tat'cho's, which is a play on nachos made with tater tots. Cheeky Pot Roast -- instead of doing a different cut of meat, we actually use the beef cheeks. You've had the Bacon Braised Ribs -- they're my labor of love. Veal-stuffed meatballs. I like to say it's kind of like American cuisine, with a strange, unusual twist. It's more a play on words. When we look at a dish, how can we twist it and make it our own? It's just our way of showing our philosophy on food when it comes down to our take on the American classics.
EOW: How big or small of a role did you play in the menu development at Morton's Grille?
TW: Well, it was a collaboration between myself, Chris Rook, who's our corporate chef for Morton's, and Wade Wiestling of The Oceanaire. So the three of us worked pretty evenly on it, collaborated and had tastings, and it kind of came about pretty quickly.
EOW: Were you given any type of directive on it?
TW: The three of us got together. We talked about it and the direction we wanted to take it. Since it was a new concept, we couldn't be wrong. So there were no parameters. They said, "Have fun with it," which I think we did. It was a lot of fun. One of my favorites on the menu are the veal-stuffed meatballs. It's a meatball that we create with veal and pork and season it, and stuff mozzarella down the middle of it, and we serve it with a marinara sauce. Chris came up with that one, and it's probably one of my favorites on the menu. I can't stay away from them -- they're really, really good. I'm a big veal person, so when he came up with that one, I think during the tastings I ate 12 of them.