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5 Questions for a Local Chef - Will Olson

Welcome to the second article in our series “5 Questions for a Local Chef”. We’re sitting down with some of our favorite local chefs this winter to talk about our favorite vegetables, fridge contents, and easy home meals. Last week I stopped by Bandwagon Brewpub in Ithaca to chat with their Chef, Will Olson who opened the restaurant with other partners in 2009. Originally from Virginia, Will is definitely a lover of food and local cuisine. One of the best things about interviewing Will was his multiple answers for each question! You gotta love a local chef who can’t pick one favorite food!

Bandwagon is a great stop for local food lovers. They brew their own beer and carry a variety of other New York State beers. Their menu changes with the seasons (although some favorites stay on the menu like burgers and fries). They’re proud to source as many local ingredients as they can – including 100% local french fries!

5 Questions for a Local Chef - Will Olson

5 Questions for a Local Chef - Will Olson

Above: Chef Will Olson preps local burgers and fries for a busy Thursday night.

What’s your favorite  local vegetable & why?
I always get excited for asparagus season, and ramps. It’s like breaking out of the winter doldrums and good things are going to come. Both of them are so ephemeral that it’s just great to have them be so good for just a little while, and know that the summer and fall are coming. I always get excited for tomato season, I still have bags and bags of roasted tomato season in the freezer. I wish I could take credit, but my wife does most of the work on those. We put them in a low, low oven and let them ride for like 24 hours.

What 3 ingredients do you always have in your home kitchen?
We always have olive oil, everybody has olive oil. Right now we have a two year old, so we always have cheese, avocados, pita, tortillas, and eggs. Always. We try and keep nuts and seeds stocked, oatmeal. And I always have beer.

You’re probably never home, but when you are, what’s your go-to quick meal?
My wife is a vegetarian, so if my wife is out of town and my kid is asleep. I will always make chicken wings and eat them. Always.
Popcorn, I eat popcorn more nights of the week then I don’t. I take the popcorn, and melt butter with truffle oil and then shave parmesan over the top. Lately I’ve been adding nutritional yeast, because it’s nutritional.

What would people be surprised to find in your refrigerator?
Depending on who you asked, people would be surprised to find fresh fruit in my refrigerator…I’ve been making a conscious effort to eat better, I don’t think that anybody would be surprised to find anything. Maybe string cheese?

What’s your best tip for home cooks?
The thing that most people at home don’t do is let their pans get really hot before cooking. If something needs to be cooked on high, let the pan get hot for 2 – 3 minutes. It’s something we do at the restaurant that most people don’t do at home. Also put butter on everything.

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