Walk by Brush Creek Ranch’s open kitchen in the Trailhead Lodge, and you’re likely to see Sous Chef Randy Gresham on the line, offering a friendly smile and hello while he crafts something delicious, perhaps one of his signature soups. Randy has become famous on ranch for his soups and guests do their ‘darndest’ to go home with one of his recipes.
The Houston native is heading into his third season at Brush Creek and has become a key leader of the culinary team, a staff that consistently showcases tremendous amounts of creativity and flexibility. “We have five unique venues on the ranch that we use to serve guests,” says Randy, “So it keeps things exciting for sure. Our meals, even aside from the food preparation, involve a huge amount of behind the scenes setup on a daily basis.” But Randy says the hard work is all worth it, when he sees guests enjoying cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and the expansive views at Falcon’s Peak, or a family dining together at Creekside Dinner Camp. “Our creekside venue is really my favorite,” he says, “I think it epitomizes what Brush Creek Ranch is all about. A ‘down-home’ rustic, country outdoor BBQ in the heart of the wilderness with some luxurious, chic touches.” It’s this type of experience that pulled Randy to Brush Creek Ranch. “My desire was to be in a ranch setting but still produce the refined and precise food that drives me.”
Randy began as a dishwasher and prep cook during his teen years in Texas and worked his way up in the culinary world, training under one of his mentors, Chef David Welch, who studied at the esteemed Le Cordon Blue in Paris. “Chef Dave taught me so much about refinement and still being true to roots with your food,” says Randy. It’s those roots that inspire many of Randy’s dishes. “I try to inspire memories and emotion with my food. To me, food is one of the few truly visceral experiences that we can have as humans. There is something innately emotional about sitting down to a meal. So I try to draw from my past in an attempt to perhaps bring out childhood memories in my take on a classic dish. Or, I might try to take a classic and put a slight spin on it to create a point of conversation and inquisitiveness. I want my dishes to speak, but not to yell. There is something to be said for finesse and simplicity.”
Speaking of finesse, Randy is also known to be quite the two-step dance partner. “I do love to two-step,” he laughs. On occasion during the summer season, Randy will finish dinner service and head to the Saloon to offer two-step lessons to guests or deal poker. “It’s a fun way for me to interact with guests since I’m in the kitchen most of the time.” On his rare days off, Randy takes advantage of all the activities the Platte River Valley offers. His favorites are fly fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking and exploring the many trails of the Medicine Bow National Forest.
He also enjoys homebrewing beer in the winter season along with BCR Executive Chef Drew Anderson, and has extensive wine knowledge. “It is fun to pair both wine and beer with food. I think beer often gets outshined by wine, when in actuality, it is much more open for pairings in terms of varieties and flavor profiles. Everything from a dark stout paired with a braised short rib, to a sour Berliner Weisse, German wheat beer, paired with a spicy mussel dish.”
His favorite bottle of wine in the Brush Creek Ranch cellar is Terlato Wine’s Chimney Rock Elevage (their Bordeaux Blend). “I was able to visit the winery last winter, see the grapes grown, taste the fermenting juice out of the barrel and have an in depth conversation with the winemaker, so that particular bottle will always be special to me.”
And then there are those famous soups of his, which he says he tends to make more in the fall and winter seasons. Who doesn’t love a hearty soup or stew when it’s cold outside? “It’s a comforting dish,” he says, “I appreciate soup as a canvas that allows lots of opportunity to work with different flavors, complexities, and textures. It really gives you a chance to play with different ingredients that might not have a bigger role in an entree.”
Given that Thanksgiving is around the corner, and inspired by the fall season, Randy shared one of his soup recipes, recently featured in Wine Enthusiast Magazine that is perfect for turkey dinner leftovers.
Happy Thanksgiving and Bon Appetite!
Creamy Sweet Potato Soup
1 cup cranberry sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion
2 celery ribs
1 leek, cleaned and sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry white wine
1 quart turkey stock
2 pounds leftover mashed sweet potatoes
2 cups heavy cream
¼ teaspoon fresh-grated nutmeg
Salt and white pepper, to taste
Dash cayenne pepper
Dash Sherry vinegar
8 ounces cooked turkey
In a skillet over high heat, reduce the cranberry sauce by half and set aside.
In a heavy-bottomed pot set over medium heat, add the olive oil and sweat the onion, celery, leek and garlic. Once translucent, deglaze them with the white wine and reduce by half. Add the stock and sweet potatoes, and cook for 10 minutes. Blend thoroughly with either an immersion blender or by carefully transferring in batches to a traditional blender. Return the mixture to the pot and reduce the heat to low. Add the cream and cook until smooth, approximately 5 minutes. Season the mixture with nutmeg, salt, pepper, cayenne and vinegar.
In a sauté pan over medium heat, reheat the turkey. Ladle the soup into bowls, and top with the turkey and cranberry sauce reduction.
Pair this creamy soup with the buttery 2008 Russian River Valley Chardonnay from Terlato Family Vineyards.