Sitting Down with Hardin Cowan of Terra Mae

Every week we sit down with one of our restaurant partners to get a better look inside their thought process, creative process, and get them to answer some funny questions.

First up was Chef Hardin Cowan of Terra Mae. He is a magician in the kitchen. 

Q.What is your first step in creating a dish out of the blue?

Hardin- Ingredients always. For instance we are working on a partnership with Crab Tree Farms, and we’ve got some beautiful green garlic and I want to use it everywhere I can. It’s all about knowing what’s in season and using it at that perfect time. If I do start with a protein (Fish, Beef, etc), it’s because I’ve got a beautiful cut of something or I know it is in the perfect season (Mostly fish).

Q.What’s your favorite meal currently on the menu at Terra Mae?

Hardin- Scallops and pork belly. When I came here originally they had a bacon wrapped scallops dish I loved, but those two things don’t cook at the same speed to perfection. Although I can roast a pork belly just right and cook a scallop to the right tenderness separately. Then I bring the two together, I’m cooking them in the same pan to keep those flavors together. Then I add cannelloni beans and a balsamic like sauce. It’s awesome.

Q.What’s your comfort food meal or “guilty pleasure”?

Hardin- Mac and Cheese. I have traveled the full scale of gourmet Mac & Cheese, from Kraft as a kid and then moving up the scale to my current favorite which is almost like a Carbonara.

Q. If you had to bring three foods or ingredients to an island, what would they be?

Hardin- I would bring a whole cow, cavatappi pasta, and a pig.

Q. What is the most important aspect to a great dish?

Hardin- Contrast… My mentor use to say “Don’t blame the ingredient, blame the cook.” What you put in a dish can be like notes in a symphony, one alone may be beautiful by itself, but when layered together with other notes you can create a whole new experience. That is what I strive for in alot of my dishes.

Q. How did you fall in love with cooking?

Hardin- Getting a free meal for working my shift when I started, then kind of hit this point where you decide to go for it or not and I said “I’m going to lean in.” I paired up with my mentor (Jermey Marshall) at Aqua grill in New York. I learned so much being up there.

Q. What’s your favorite place to eat in town, besides Terra Mae?

Hardin- Main St. Meats. They do an amazing lunch.

Q. What is your favorite part about Test Kitchen?

Hardin- The creativity. The inventive process of taking two ingredients that are a bit resilient and trying to find a way to make them work together to create something new is so liberating.

Test Kitchen Tuesday has produced some truly amazing dishes, last week the entree for test kitchen Tuesday was a “Mille Feulle Rabbit Loin” for $9 which is 20% of market price.

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