Chef tasting at Walnut Kitchen: huge success

Chef Johnny Hogg garnishes his smokey roasted carrot soup.

A local Maryville chef smashed through the barriers between the kitchen and the guests during his six-course tasting menu this weekend at the Walnut Kitchen. The few patrons that were lucky enough to snag a reservation for this highly exclusive two-night event were blown away by the spectacular menu created and prepared by Chef Jonny Hogg. Complete with full service, wine pairing, and insightful commentary, Hogg’s personable demeanor made all the difference with this would-be patrician experience.

Hogg started out strong with his first two dishes of the evening that exhibited his training in traditional Asian cuisine. His futo Philly roll—a combination of the traditional futomaki roll but made with the ingredients of the American-made Philly roll (cream cheese, cucumber, and salmon)— was powerful in flavor with large cuts of freshly smoked and cured salmon.

The second dish, shrimp tempura, was plated nicely with a bed of salty fried mung bean sprouts that brought a beautiful aesthetic to the dish. Unlike the all-too-common shrimp tempura dishes that offer cooked then chilled shrimp, Hogg’s freshly cracked then fried shrimp was bursting with juicy flavor.

“Johnny Hogg changed my perception regarding Asian cuisine. Dishes that started in an eloquent fashion were stamped forcefully with his personal flair. If given the opportunity I would recommend this experience with chef Hogg to anyone—10-out-of-10,” said Austin Shell, who was taking the night off from his usual post, bar tender at the of the Walnut Kitchen.

“I’m not sure how this would turn out. In concept, it seemed like it would work, so I’ll be eager to hear your opinions,” said Hogg regarding the third course of the evening: roasted carrot soup. The soup featured flavors of smoky roast carrots, ginger, coconut, and basil. It was garnished with fresh cut basil and radish sprouts. The dish did not disappoint as each guest remarked happily on the savory, smoky flavor.

The crown jewel of the meal was the dry-aged filet mignon bedded atop a healthy serving of “Asian street noodles,” rice noodles cooked with assorted vegetable and spices. The Walnut Kitchen is known for its butchery and sourcing of locally raised hormone free beef, and Hogg’s choice to pair high-end beef with the aptly named Asian street noodles was a bold and successful choice.

For the fifth course, Hogg steered the course of the evening from savory to sweet with a grilled Asian pear dish that featured charred pears coupled with Brebis cheese from sheep’s milk, and blackberries.

Finally, the main desert dish was a masterfully crafted goat cheese cake wrapped in phyllo dough and then deep fried. Topped with a semi-sweet chocolate sauce and friend mint, it was a magnificent crowd-pleaser.

“I’ve been watching Johnny grow as a chef, a father, and as a man for a long time. We [she and her husband] drove here from southern Alabama to support Johnny in this important phase of what surely will be a successful career,” said Mona Lisa Hogg, Hogg’s aunt who is a restaurant owner herself.

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