Brandon Bobb, Executive Chef of Maketewah Country Club in Cincinnati, Ohio, has always been inspired by the flavors of Mexican cuisine. After much research, he reached out to his vendor about birria tacos—who suggested using lamb neck.
“It uses a familiar cooking method, with something a little different,” Bobb says.
And the dish turned out better than expected.
Bobb shares where his passion for Mexican cuisine originated—and why this particular recipe works so well.
Club + Resort Chef (C+RC): What was the inspiration behind this dish?
Brandon Bobb (BB): When I was a kid, I would get up early on Sundays and watch the cooking shows on channel 48: Julia Child’s show and Ming Tsai’s East Meets West. But there was one show I could never get enough of—Rick Bayless’ show, Mexico: One Plate at a Time. Here started my love for Mexican food and cooking with these flavors. Well, that and the best Mexican restaurant in my town, Rincon Mexicano. The owner and Chef, Eric Viar, was awarded the ACF award for excellence in casual dining. He is the standard on which I judge other Mexican restaurants.
Fast forward a bunch of years; here I am, a Chef, and I still find myself loving this style of cooking, the way the flavors meld together.
I often create menus like this, so I can show off these flavors. One of the dishes I chose this time was the Lamb Birria. I have been watching videos and reading about this for over a year now—I’ve become a little obsessive. Typically, it’s made with beef in the U.S., but in Mexico, it’s [often] made with lamb. So I reached out to my vendor, Andrew from Northern Haserot, and he and an old rep of mine, Jeff, suggested I use the lamb neck.
Inspiration comes from so many directions. We take what works best for us and create something all our own.
C+RC: How would you describe the flavors?
BB: This is a deeply rich and multi-layered dish, from the bones releasing all their flavor from hours of braising, down to the guajillo chiles we add in abundance to drive that deep, smoky flavor. It’s the melty cheese, the crunch from the corn tortilla, the fact that you can dip this taco into a bowl of consommé and enhance the experience. What really sets everything off is the fresh onions and the cilantro. That tangy flavor just lets everything else come in clearer. This is a bold dish in such a simple way.
C+RC: What makes this a successful dish?
BB: This dish is a game-changer [for anyone] who might be apprehensive to try lamb. Just ask one of [Maketewah CC’s] members, Mr. Rutenschroder. He was sitting at the bar giving me reasons as to why he doesn’t like lamb. So I said, “If you don’t like this dish, sir, I will pay for it myself.” He took the challenge and was licking his fingers before the end—said it was the best lamb he’s ever had.
C+RC: What about this dish makes you most proud?
BB: I’m most proud that we were able to make something so well-received, and it came out better than expected. The dish is beautiful and simply presented. The colors, aromas and the feeling it induces when you eat it are truly delicious. … And the process of making the dish is satisfying and rewarding.