Ever wonder what makes some of Little Rock’s food personalities tick? Rock City Eat’s latest series, Food Insider, takes a look at individuals who are helping change the landscape of our city’s culinary scene. Whether they’re in the kitchen, managing a storefront, farming land or running a food truck … we’ll delve into both the professional and personal side of these dynamite people. This week, we feature Chef Brian Deloney of Maddie’s Place.
What is your official title with Maddie’s Place?
How long have you owned the restaurant?
We opened in February 2009.
When and where did you get your start in the restaurant business?
My first experience was at Tim’s Pizza in Fayetteville, then I moved to New York to go to the CIA. My true experience was working with Emeril for ten years, five in New Orleans and five in Las Vegas.
Could you briefly describe Maddie’s Place to someone who has never been?
Maddie’s Place is a fun, casual restaurant with southern food influenced by New Orleans.
What would you say is the restaurant’s signature dish?
Shrimp and Grits
What are the most popular items?
I’d say fried green tomatoes with jumbo lump crabmeat and remoulade, alligator bites with chili garlic sauce, braised ribeye meat pies, buttermilk fried chicken breast with mac and cheese and slow cooked greens, and shrimp and grits, along with specials we run all the time like chargrilled oysters, and a ribeye with smothered green beans, truffle fries and homemade worchestershire.
Owning and running a restaurant is no easy business. What has been your key(s) to your success?
Luckily, I trained under Emeril Lagasse and when I started we had two restaurants. We also started a human resources department that we were all involved in creating the processes and programs that go with it. I feel that that experience taught me more of the business side of running a company.
Do you have a good base of regular customers?
Absolutely! We hardly advertise and go on word of mouth to keep us going. This has been great, although there are many people that still are finding out about us.
When you think back, what have been some of your favorite memories getting started, as well as now in the thick of business?
I love the fast pace and pressure of getting “slammed” and digging yourself out of it. I got to meet and cook for tons of celebrities working for Emeril as well as cooking with and for many of the greatest chefs in the country.
In regards to the future, any special news for us? Or will it be business as usual?
It’s business as usual for now, but I’m always waiting for something to fall into my lap.
On to the FUN questions…!
Where’s your favorite vacation spot or fantasy getaway?
We have a timeshare in Cabo that we go to. I am actually taking my twins there in October. Obviously, I love going to New Orleans and we are always looking for festivals in small Gulf towns to attend for fun.
What the best meal you’ve eaten outside of Little Rock? What made you love it?
The French Laundry in Napa … the food was so fresh and amazing, not to mention good friends to enjoy it with!
Who, hands down, serves the best pizza in town?
That’s hard to say but Damgoode and Piro are high on my list.
What about dessert? (I love dessert, so I’m curious!)
I’m not the biggest dessert fan but if there is tiramisu on the menu, I’m eating it.
If you could change one thing about Little Rock, what would it be?
Fewer chain restaurants!
What do you admire about Arkansans?
What don’t I? We have a cabin outside of Hot Springs on 25 acres and love going out there to get away with the family. It’s a chance to get away from the city and enjoy all of the camping and fishing spots, and of course, Lake Hamilton. My wife is from Hot Springs, so we go there a lot.
Do you have a go-to musical jam when you’re cooking?
I love music as long as its not rap or country. Usually in the kitchen we have music on, but being the owner I’m usually thinking about everything else that needs to be handled instead of what is playing.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Honestly, from a pretty young age, I knew I wanted to cook.
What bit of advice would you give to someone who wants to do what you do for a living, or someone who wants to be a successful business owner?
Spend time in a professional kitchen before you decide. People think it is easier than it is. A successful business owner has to have worked in the business for some time and see all that it takes … the good and the bad!