"Cooking is something that makes me happy," says Erick Wood, executive chef at one of Chattanooga's newest all-day breakfast hot spots, Honey Seed. "I love to cook for others."
It's something he's had a lot of experience doing. A native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and a graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina, Wood has worked as sous chef, chef and executive chef at restaurants around the Southeast, including Chattanooga's Cibo!, Hill City Pizza, Northshore Grille, the Lookout Mountain Club, Ruth's Chris and Big River Grille. He also ventured out onto his own with Talus, a favorite on Lookout Mountain for several years.
Now, he's back making pizzas and adding Montreal-style bagels to his culinary repertoire at Honey Seed. Here, he talks about what makes Montreal bagels different from others, as well as what it is exactly that makes him happy in the kitchen.
Q: Whom do you consider your mentor?
A: My late grandfather, Col. Adrian Kline. He instilled in me values of tradition, integrity and faith.
Q: You say that cooking makes you happy. How so?
A: I like to invite people and cook something they like. Being a chef is a very nice profession where you can learn new things daily. Whatever I serve, it contains my love, hard work, creativity and passion for my profession. Cooking is an art.
Q: What is it that makes Montreal bagels different from other types of bagels?
A: Montreal bagels are always hand-rolled, boiled in honey water, baked in a wood-fired oven and baked on both sides. This gives the bagels a slight sweetness, a crispy exterior and a bagel that has two top sides.
The seeds -- poppy, sesame, hemp, chia, pepitas and flax -- on both sides get toasted, giving it great flavor. They are delicious and unique to the brand. And we also offer this in jars.
Q: So how are the bagels served?
A: We bake bagels in small batches throughout the day and right in front of our guests.
Q: What do you think Honey Seed adds to the restaurant scene in downtown Chattanooga?
A: We're very unique in what we do. In addition to Montreal-style bagels, we offer brunch daily, till 9 p.m., and have a large option of vegan and vegetarian items.
Q: Was there a learning curve that you experienced when you first made them?
A: Definitely. I had a learning curve in both learning the exact right way to roll them and also baking them. You would think that after rolling a few hundred you would get it, but it actually took longer.
Q: Did you have to go to Canada to learn the technique?
A: I trained in Montreal over the summer and needed every bit of it.
Q: Describe the menu at Honey Seed.
A: The two pillars of the menu are bagels and pizza. Our pizza dough is made with 00 flour (specialty Italian flour) and we use San Marzano tomatoes for the sauce. All of our ingredients are of the highest quality, which has made sourcing these items challenging.
We also have paninis and salads for lunch, bagel sandwiches for breakfast and then a full brunch menu with omelets, Benedicts, chicken and waffles, and French toast.
Q: So far, what would you say is your favorite thing to make on the menu?
A: A lot of thought goes into our omelets. We make an omelet batter, then, depending on the order -- what things the customers wants in their omelet -- we blend that in before it goes into the pan, cook the batter in the pan briefly and then put it into the salamander (a dedicated broiler) so it fluffs up. Then we add the cheese and back it goes into the salamander to further fluff.
Q: What's your favorite bagel and topping?
A: Our honey jalapeno is my favorite cream cheese, and the smoked salmon with cream cheese, cucumber, onions, capers on a toasted sesame bagel is outstanding.
Q: What's your Achilles' heel ingredient or dish?
A: Our cinnamon rolls -- 22 different recipes later. We jokingly said we should name it, "The 22-hour cinnamon roll."
Q: What food is your guilty pleasure?
Q: What's been your most memorable meal?
A: Dinner in The Garden Room at the St. Regis Hotel in Atlanta. I was with my fiancee, Jennifer Sherrill, and it's one of the best restaurants that we've ever been to.
We had the Lobster Omelette -- poached lobster, tarragon and lobster Hollandaise; smoked salmon avocado toast; and steak with 1,000-layer potatoes, grilled filet mignon, poached eggs and Dijon hollandaise sauce.
Q: Is there a cookbook or website that you turn to for inspiration?
A: Art Culinaire Magazine.
Q: What food city do you enjoy visiting the most?
A: My stay in Montreal this summer was incredible. It's a very diverse and exciting culinary city.
Q: Would you care to share one of Honey Seed's recipes?
A: The Chickpea Chorizo is one of our vegan dishes that we use on salads, omelets and as a topping for pizza.
4 teaspoons canola oil
4 cups canned garbanzo (chickpeas) beans, drained and rinsed
4 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Drizzle the oil into a sauté pan, and place over medium heat. Add in the garbanzo beans, and cook for 3 minutes or until they have just a touch of color.
In a bowl, add in the spices, and mix to combine. Toss the beans into the spice mix, and cook in the skillet for an additional 1 minute.
Remove from the heat, and cool.
Once cooled, place the beans into a food processor. Pulse for 3 seconds, 3-4 times, achieving a "ground" meat-like appearance.
IF YOU GO
-- Where: Honey Seed, 1705 Market St.
-- Hours: 7 a.m.-9 p.m. daily (breakfast and brunch all day, lunch after 10 a.m., pizza after 4 p.m.)
-- Specialties: Hand-rolled Montreal bagels, wood-fired, thin-crust pizza
-- Price range: $10-$11 sandwiches and specialty salads, $20-$22 pizzas
-- Alcohol: Full bar and local brews on tap
-- Phone: 423-521-7333
-- Online: honeyseedchatt.com