Sous chef of Superior Motors explains how all that good food comes together | Back of House | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Sous chef of Superior Motors explains how all that good food comes together

click to enlarge Brian Little - CP PHOTO: JOIE KNOUSE
CP photo: Joie Knouse
Brian Little

Name: Brian Little, Braddock
Work: Sous chef, Superior Motors

What does a sous chef do?

Basically run the kitchen, making sure everything is up to the chef’s or owner’s expectations, making sure it is exactly the way the person above me wants it to be. The more that I take off their plate, the more they can focus on things that might be more important. Ultimately, my job is to make their job easier. 

What do you do all day?

I start at 9 a.m., creating a list to delegate to the cooks. Anything that is going to be unmanageable I do: long sauces, butchery, proteins that need to be cooked longer, things a bit more technical respective to my skill set, a lot of the more finicky pastry stuff, vegan and gluten-friendly dishes which require a bit more attention and knowledge.

On weekdays, I have multiple meetings with different reps and purveyors, farmers. I constantly have people coming to sell me product, give me better deals, so a lot of it is looking between the purveyors to make sure we’re getting the best deal but also making sure we’re getting the best product.

Once service begins, my job is quality checking every team member’s station to make sure everything they put out is what I want them to be putting out. From there, I typically run expo, selling the dishes that the team is putting up — my station is a lot of garnishes, sauces, oils, herbs — then sending them to the front of the house.

And you’re creating the dishes as well?

It’s a collaboration. I’ll have an idea and bounce it off of Kevin [Sousa, owner of Superior Motors]. He’ll give me feedback. A cook will mention an idea that they had or something that they wanted to try or had seen somewhere. We take all those ideas and put them together into what would be a representation of all of our thoughts. That way it’s not just me forcing dishes down people’s necks.

Is it a dish at a time or whole menu?

I try to never do a total revamp. It puts a lot of stress on me but also the staff. I would rather do a dish a day than a whole overhaul. In the summertime, there are changes more frequently because some smaller farm operations may only have enough product to sustain maybe something they were just trying out, thought it was cool but can’t sell on a large scale to other places. Like Churchview Farm who has some of the most interesting produce in the city. I have the capability to run a dish for a day or two and really showcase that one ingredient. Now that’s slowed down a bit.

And in addition to teaching back of house how to make it, you’re teaching front of house how to sell it?

Yes. Our menu style is a bit more vague. The customer that sees the menu may only see a brief description. That gives us an opportunity to get a little more of the element of surprise — it might only have five ingredients listed, then when they receive the dish, it’s so much more complex. Some dishes will sell themselves. Someone that wants a steak is already sold. But the most interesting dishes require a knowledgeable team member in front of the house to sell that dish.

How’d you start?

I started as a dishwasher and when it came time to go on my own and have real bills and grow up, I got a position as a prep cook that also did dishes because I wasn’t ready to cook and was terrified of it. They slowly eased me into the role of cooking, and I just fell in love with it.

Why is it terrifying?

It seemed very intense — the lifestyle, how busy it was. I couldn’t fathom how people could operate and mass-produce food and didn’t have an understanding of it, so it was very daunting. It wasn’t anything I thought that I could ever do.

click to enlarge Brian Little - CP PHOTO: JOIE KNOUSE
CP photo: Joie Knouse
Brian Little

What made you fall in love with it?

I love food in general. Having an opportunity to be part of someone’s experience, if I do what I need to do and make the food as wonderful as it can be, people will remember that potentially forever if it’s good enough.

Do you want to open your own restau-

No. Absolutely not. I think I need someone above me constantly pushing me. If I were to go out on my own, I would become complacent and I wouldn’t be able to keep my own fire going. 

What’s the hardest part?

The sacrifice. I’m a parent. I lose a lot of time with my son because of my hours. I’m typically working from when he would be waking up until he’s already in bed. That’s hard. But it’s something I have to do. I need to make a living, and I need to make sure I’m happy making that living, so I try to not let it get me down that much. I know what I’m doing is a good thing, and I make a lot of people happy here. 

What we do here in particular, which in my opinion is different than other places, is the education we give to people. We like to hire people with zero experience and give them an opportunity to learn and work in an environment that maybe they wouldn’t be able to anywhere else. 

What do people not know that they should?

I think it’s important to know how much we put into it. We don’t get paid a lot of money. We do this because we love to do it. We are a very specific breed of people. I think we’re some of the most hardworking and interesting individuals out there. 

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