Millennial Chefs on Millennials

February 15, 2016

Think you know Millennials? These two East Nashville chefs will school you about their generation’s approach to food. They have an appreciation for craftsmanship, they are generous, concerned about the planet, more interested in veganism and less interested in alcohol.

Photo credit: Joshua Black Wilkins

Every brand, retailer, advertiser, and basically anyone selling anything is scrambling to understand what makes Millennials tick. East Nashville, TN is a community where this age group is re-inventing the world of food and socialization in one of the hottest food scenes in the nation. To get a little closer to how they are approaching food, we had a conversation with brother/sister chefs Katy and Chris Futrell. What better way to do that than to ask them how they would plan a Grammy party? Approaching this interview, we had no idea how much I would learn about this generation from these two chefs. 

Katy Futrell, nicknamed “Nashville’s Donut Darlin’, is a pastry chef specializing in artisanal donuts. Chris Futrell is co-owner of a new restaurant, The Birdhouse, opening next month, which will feature Korean friend chicken, a twist on Nashville traditional hot chicken. 

Everyone in the food business wants to understand Millennials and why they seem to have such a passion for food. As young chefs in one of the hippest food scenes in the country, can you give us five "must haves" when it comes to food you keep in your own fridge? 

Katy Futrell: 

1. Non-GMO, non-soy meat alternatives. Reducing an impact on the environment and focusing on health in addition to ethical reasons have left a lot of Millennials seeking alternatives to meat. Myself included. I love Quorn products when I don't have the time or energy to make my own meatless meals.

2. Mushrooms. Maitaki mushrooms are one of my favorite varieties to cook and eat. They have a multitude of health benefits and can be cooked down to a nice crisp and added to most any meal.

3. My Grandma Zora's homemade applesauce. We all know how difficult it can be to replicate the love and care in our grandmother's cooking, and Grandma Zora's applesauce is no exception. I typically have two mason jars full. When I get down to one, panic sets in, and I know it's time to call Grandma for a restock! 

4. Olives. While I enjoy a multitude of different olives, I gravitate toward a mild Green such as Castalvertranos for a quick snack.

5. Hot Sauce and/or Jalapenos. I'm a sucker for spicy food. While I don't necessarily douse every dish in hot sauce, there is a time and a place for hot sauce or fresh jalapenos and when the occasion arrises, I enjoy every mouth burning, eye watering second.

Chris Futrell: 

1. Broccoli. I love broccoli in any form, raw, roasted, steamed. It's a great healthy snack and an easy ingredient to turn into a side dish for a larger meal. 

2. Gochujang. This is a wonderful Korean condiment made from fermented red chilies. It's spicy and salty and Sriracha on steroids. 

3. Butter. My background is in classical French cuisine, and butter is in EVERYTHING. It's great for adding richness to sauces and the key to a killer grilled cheese. 

4. Beer. Like most people my age, I dig really good beer. I typically go for a brown ale or bock.

5. Pickles. A really great kosher dill pickle is a thing of beauty.

Now, the big question! The Grammys are a big night for Millennials. What would you serve at your party?

Katy Futrell: A Grammy party calls for a multitude of hors d'oeuvres and small bites, as opposed to a sit-down dinner. I would like to appeal to different palates and dietary restrictions as many Millennials have become particular about what they consume. 

I'd provide bite-sized crostini with roasted tomatoes, an olive, cucumber, celery relish, and feta atop a chickpea hummus as a fresh and healthy vegan option. Grilled salmon skewers with a lemon and parsley pesto. Devils-on-Horseback with chèvre and a drizzle of honey. A multitude of cheeses is always appreciated. Nori rolls with dipping sauces are clean, easy to eat, light, and delicious. For dessert I'd go a little heavier and decadent with some battered and fried cookie dough bites.  

Chris Futrell: I'm a huge fan of theme parties. I'd probably do something fun that honored some of the nominees’ hometowns and also easy to eat in a party environment. Think "Smoked Salmon Dip" for Seattle, birthplace of the Foo Fighters, or California-style Fish Tacos for Kendrick Lamar. I also really like dorky puns, so who could resist Alabama (Milk)Shakes?

Throwing a party can be costly! What strategies do you use to stay within a budget, and is it cool to ask your friends to contribute either with actual food or with cash? 

Katy Futrell: Luckily, most Millennials want to contribute in some way, shape, or form when it comes to get-togethers. It's completely acceptable to ask friends to contribute a dish, especially if they themselves have dietary restrictions. Other than that, there are plenty of different grocers and local farmers/gardeners where produce can be quite inexpensive. It also doesn't hurt to have a friend or two with a thriving garden and generous spirit.  

Chris Futrell: It’s always nice when people bring things even if it's just a bag of chips or a sleeve of cups. I ALWAYS spend more money than I intend when I throw a gathering - I can't help it, I always want to cook ALL OF THE THINGS, which I think speaks to our generation as well. We are, as a whole, quite generous.

Are Millennials drinking alcohol? We've been reading a lot about sobriety being "in" with your age group? What types of cocktails or non-alcoholic beverages would you serve? 

Katy Futrell: Interestingly, I think the Millennial generation is a bit split on this. In my experience, a lot of younger folks are abstaining from alcohol while the majority of older Millennials (almost Gen Xers but not quite) are still drinking, mostly in moderation.

Prosecco is wildly popular with people my age and is particularly appropriate for a Grammy party. While craft beer is also quite the popular choice, I'd probably serve local wines on this occasion. Lastly, mocktails (flavorful and interesting cocktails without the booze) are gaining steam and appreciation among sober Millennials.  

Chris Futrell:I don't think drinking is as big with the Millennial generation as it might have been in the past. That said, I've seen a trend toward craft beer and really well made cocktails. It seems like the craftsmanship is something that's more important. For parties, I'm a big fan of large batch cocktails like a big pitcher of Rum Punch or Margaritas. 

Do your friends want to know if the food you are serving is organic, GMO-free, antibiotic-free, grass-fed, gluten free, etc….when in a social arena what food labels do you find your age group caring the most about? 

Katy Futrell: While most folks are extremely appreciative of the hard work a host has performed to create a successful spread, there are the occasional questions regarding the contents of the food being served. It is almost understood that we all try to stray away from GMOs. I've found that the majority of questions have to do with meat, dairy, or gluten content. 

Chris Futrell: I'm not sure if this is necessarily a generational thing or just people becoming smarter consumers, but the details behind our food and beverages seem more important now than ever before. People are not just watching nutritional labels for calories, but are really interested in where their food is coming from and how it is being produced. There's a sense of responsibility for what our consumption is doing not just to our bodies, but to the animals that are providing for us, and the way we treat the land itself. And that manifests itself in things like the anti-GMO movement. Personally, our restaurant is very conscientious about ensuring the chickens we use are free-range and all natural, that we provide a gluten-free deep fryer, and that we offer vegan and vegetarian options as well. 

Let's talk about how you are going to share your Grammy night party on social media. Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter? And do you think you'll get a lot of interest in pictures of your dishes? Why?

Katy Futrell: Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. While I love Facebook, it's become more of a platform to interact with long lost friends and far away relatives. Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat are more widely used amongst people of my generation. It seems the gratification of posting instantly and scrolling through swiftly is of great importance to Millennials. I believe highlighting food photos on IG will generate a lot of buzz and excitement amongst my peers.

Chris Futrell: We'll definitely display whatever we end up doing on social media - Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for sure. The problem with social media right now is that there are so many platforms, and you want to be cognizant to not post the same picture or video to all of your forums. You need variety there so that someone on Facebook sees a different picture or post than someone who follows you on Periscope. This incentivizes people to pay attention, and prevents them from getting bored seeing the same thing in seven different places.  

I’m curious. Who is your favorite artist up for a Grammy this year? 

Katy Futrell:  It's a tie between the Alabama Shakes and Jason Isbell. I just cannot choose between the two. I admire and appreciate them both and their albums are equally dynamic and beautiful. 

Chris Futrell: I love Chris Stapleton, and he deserves every accolade he's gotten. Traveller is an amazing album. But I've got to go with Kendrick Lamar. To Pimp a Butterfly is just absolutely brilliant. One of the best and most important hip-hop albums of all time.