Chris Brooks is known for sautéing some of the best dishes in Richmond. But his skills didn’t come from a cooking class. According to Brooks, he gets it all from his momma.
“I’ve never been trained. I’ve never taken a class. I don’t open cookbooks,’’ Brooks explains. “My momma taught me how to cook.”
And his momma taught him well. So well in fact, that his very first job in a restaurant was on the sauté station at one of the hottest restaurants in town, TC West (owned by The Tobacco Company). A good friend referred him for the position. And on training day, Brooks impressed the managers.
However, it was his second day at work when Brooks really made an impression. On that day, he was assigned the task of sautéing spinach. And when no one would tell Brooks the recipe, he just used the one his momma taught him.
“No one in the kitchen could tell me how to sauté spinach. So I just had to do what I did at home. I used spinach, minced garlic and lemon juice. And I sent it out not knowing where it was going,” Brooks says.
A couple of minutes later, a big cowboy boot kicked the kitchen door open and a voice yelled, ‘Who fixed this spinach?’ And everyone pointed to Brooks.
Brooks says he thought to himself, “Jesus Christ, I lost my job and I’ve only been here for two days.”
But as it turns out, he did not lose his job. He was actually being rewarded. That big cowboy boot belonged to none other than The Sausage King, Jimmy Dean! Dean actually loved his spinach so much that he ordered the menu to be changed. And since then, Brooks has been sautéing dishes for celebrities, politicians and other Big Wigs who manage to make their way through Richmond. Anyone who wants a great plate of food knows to come to Chris.
So, how did Brooks end up at Croaker’s Spot? Well, he just asked his cousin for the position. Brooks is a first cousin of Neverette Eggleston III, grandson to Neverette Eggleston, the famed Jackson Ward entrepreneur.
Brooks explains, “My cousin had spent about 15 years in his grandfather’s hotel, running the Eggleston Deli, when he opened up Croaker’s Spot across the street. He opened up on my birthday, April 9. I came over one day in August to see him. I noticed that he needed some help and I’ve been here ever since. I’ve been with Croaker’s Spot for 17 years, since it opened.”
And while Brooks is skilled in all forms of cooking, (His crab cakes are to die for!) his favorite dish at Croaker’s Spot is none other than the Southern Sautéed Chicken.
“The Southern Sautéed Chicken has been on the menu since we opened in April of 2001,” says Brooks. “It’s mushroom gravy, red onions and scallions served over chicken and a bed of rice with cabbage and cornbread on the side.”
And yes, it is absolutely delicious.
1020 Hull St. | 804-269-0464 | CroakersSpot.com