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Chef Kyle Brown: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”

Delegate, delegate, delegate!!. I am a perfectionist, and when I was younger and building my career, my motto was often “if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.” For years, I’ve worn myself to the bone all out of fear that if I delegate a certain task, they might mess it […]

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Delegate, delegate, delegate!!. I am a perfectionist, and when I was younger and building my career, my motto was often “if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.” For years, I’ve worn myself to the bone all out of fear that if I delegate a certain task, they might mess it up and I’d have to fix the mistake anyways, so I might as well do it myself. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I mean things still get messed up…a lot…BUT it’s a learning and coaching opportunity, and I have found that my team morale is higher when I keep them learning and growing as culinary professionals. They feel good that I trust them to take on certain tasks and it frees me up to focus on things that truly only I can do. The best part is once they’ve got it down, I never have to do that task again!


I had the pleasure of interviewing Kyle Brown, executive chef for Broxton Brewery in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. He got an early start in the industry, and by age 23 he was the executive chef for the famous jazz supper club Maverick’s Flat, where the Temptations got their start. As a gay black chef, he prides himself on building a diverse and open kitchen, and serves up a blend of southern-inspired comfort food and California fresh cuisine.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know’ you a bit. Can you share with our readers a story about what inspired you to become a restauranteur or chef?

As the child of a busy single mother and grandchild of a home economics teacher, I’ve been helping in the kitchen for as long as I can remember. My grandmother would tell me stories about being a toddler and allowing me to stir pots as she propped me on her hip. It was my mother, however, that helped me figure out my path to becoming a chef. As a young child she asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and when I told her a janitor like my friend John, the custodian at my school, she kindly reminded me of my love for helping in the kitchen and cooking and subtly suggested being a chef…the rest is history.

Do you have a specific type of food that you focus on? What was it that first drew you to cooking that type of food? Can you share a story about that with us?

Having graduated from the Culinary Institute of America’s Baking and Pastry program, the pastry kitchen is definitely were I shine the brightest. I learned to bake from my grandma. She taught her students to bake cakes and cookies and I often helped her gather the mise en place for her demos and grade her students’ finished projects. Needless to say I was a fat kid!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This one is a struggle for me because as a perfectionist, I always strive to make a good dish even better, but sometimes you have to realize that it’s popular for a reason, and the more you want to tweak and improve something the more you risk alienating your regulars that loved it the way it was.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you became a chef or restauranteur? What was the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

In an effort to create a light and fun atmosphere in my kitchen, you could often find me singing or dancing to whatever music we have playing in the kitchen. One day while dancing, I guess I dropped it a little too low and ripped the entire seat my pants…I was mortified and just ran. Too embarrassed to even address what happened as my team stands there laughing their asses off, I retreated to the manager’s office and stapled my pants back together so that I could get through the rest of the days service. What lesson did I learn? Maybe just stick to singing!

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? How did you overcome this obstacle?

The culture in restaurant kitchens is historically pretty heteronormative and starting my career as a very green 23 year old, gay, executive chef, I had to figure out how I would earn respect from my team. I was nervous to talk about my sexuality or personal life, but I realized this is my kitchen and I have a right to be my authentic self. If anyone had a problem, they don’t have to work for me. Since then I realized there were so many closeted cooks that don’t feel comfortable being themselves at work, and I wanted to change that. I wanted to create an open and welcoming environment for everyone, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation, and I’m proud to manage one of the most diverse kitchens I’ve ever worked in.

In your experience, what is the key to creating a dish that customers are crazy about?

Currently at Broxton we focus on southern-influenced comfort foods with a fresh California spin. We are a restaurant and brewery in the heart of Westwood, steps away from the UCLA campus, and with so many students, faculty and families that come though our doors, my main focus is giving an incredible value to our guests. My next focus is relatability and craveability. As a chef, I like to have fun with the dishes we create, but not do anything too pretentious as to alienate anyone. I like to reinforce this through fun menu name like our “crack wings” with sweet, spicy, and smokey profiles that guests say are as addictive as their namesake.

Personally, what is the ‘perfect meal for you’?

The perfect meal for me is a rustic and unpretentious home cooked meal made by someone else. Even if the food wasn’t technically cooked the “proper way” more than anything, I appreciate the love, time, and energy that someone puts into preparing a meal for me, as many are often intimidated to cook for a chef.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? What impact do you think this will have?

I’m actually working to expand our utilization of our very special charcoal Josper oven and highlighting all that it can do. There are only a few of these types of ovens in the state of California, so it’s a really fun tool to play with. I have recently added a smoked brisket, and will be working on other items like smoked tofu “bacon “ and meaty beef ribs to highlight some southern BBQ techniques. So far it’s been a huge hit, and it allows me to keep prices low by featuring these less expensive proteins but with a lot of wow factor.

What advice would you give to other chefs or restaurateurs to thrive and avoid burnout?

Delegate, delegate, delegate!!. I am a perfectionist, and when I was younger and building my career, my motto was often “if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.” For years, I’ve worn myself to the bone all out of fear that if I delegate a certain task, they might mess it up and I’d have to fix the mistake anyways, so I might as well do it myself. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I mean things still get messed up…a lot…BUT it’s a learning and coaching opportunity, and I have found that my team morale is higher when I keep them learning and growing as culinary professionals. They feel good that I trust them to take on certain tasks and it frees me up to focus on things that truly only I can do. The best part is once they’ve got it down, I never have to do that task again!

Do you have any advice for “up and coming” young chefs who are in need of guidance to become successful in the culinary world?

Understand the numbers and remember that your “art” needs to make business sense first and foremost. Too many chefs don’t realize the importance of costing out their menu, understanding suitable margin, and pulling off or changing items that don’t make sense financially regardless of how much you personally love it. It’s another thing I try to ingrain in my team’s mind — in fact, I’ve started hosting culinary finance seminars for my team so that they can grow in this regard as well.

COVID-19 has been a trying time for all of us. How are you growing your business during COVID-19? What advice do you have for any chefs who are trying to stay relevant during this time?

This is obviously a tough time for everyone. Broxton was blessed with tons of outdoor space and we were easily able to pivot to expand our outdoor seating while comfortably socially distancing tables. We had to get really creative to come up with fun ideas to engage regulars and capture new guests through takeout specials, such as our “build-a-picnic-basket” option that we came up with to allow guests that don’t feel entirely comfortable eating at a restaurant to be able to enjoy a wonderful experience at a park or maybe even their own back yard. It comes complete with a picnic basket, service ware, and of course the quintessentional checkered table covering.

Thank you for all that. Now we are ready for the main question of the interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started as a Restauranteur or Chef” and why? Please share a story or an example for each.

1. I wish someone would have told me how physically and mentally demanding this career would be. I leave work every day drenched in sweat, reeking of every food imaginable. But what makes me happy is knowing that I get to pass on positive energy through my food to hundreds of strangers every day.

2. I wish someone told me that my likelihood of being rich and famous being a chef is slim to none. I grew up watching Emeril Legassi, Bobby Flay and others, and wanted to be as big of a household name as them. And while it’s technically possible, the chances are probably even slimmer than a high school baller making it to the NBA.

3. I wish someone told me that servers that work 4-hour shifts would make the same or more than me after tips.. I might have rethought my career path! Nah just kidding, I love what I do and I can’t see myself doing anything else.

4. I wish that someone would have told me early on that sometimes you are going to come across guests that no matter what you do they will never be satisfied and you have to accept that; don’t beat yourself up about it.

5. I wish someone would have told me while some might be impressed with my background as a CIA graduate, in the grand scope of my career no one really cares where I went to school. It’s hard work that matters most.

What’s the one dish people have to try if they visit your establishment?

People absolutely have to try our Angry Fried Chicken Sandwich.. best selling item ever by far, and obviously our most delicious! Other than that, I highly recommend our Bourbon Caramel Bread Pudding. The recipe was created on a bet when our previous GM challenged me to make a better bread pudding than her favorite restaurant. I won the bet. It doesn’t sound super fancy or special, but its execution is pretty unique and soo good! I use some of my favorite secret ingredients (including lots of butter and cream, so maybe try it on a cheat day!). It’s baked in our Josper charcoal oven which gives it a slightly savory and smokey flavor that pairs beautifully with the bourbon caramel sauce.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

When I worked for Simms Restaurant group one thing we lived and breathed was to put people first in everything we do. What does that mean? When a guest makes a crazy request, find a way to say yes. When an employee needs a day off, find a way to accommodate them. When a vendor comes to make a delivery in the middle of your lunch rush, don’t make their life more difficult by being an asshole to them.

How can our readers further follow you online?

I don’t really use social media much…too many Netflix specials ruined it for me haha! But I can be found on Linkedin, and you can learn more about Broxton at Broxtonla.com

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