Q&A: Chef Tim Swepston
In May, Tim Swepston was named the new executive chef at Bodean, 3376 E. 51st St.
In May, Tim Swepston was named the new executive chef at Bodean, 3376 E. 51st St. He was previously Bodean’s chef de cuisine. We caught up with him soon after he became top chef of the 50-year-old seafood restaurant.
How’s it going so far?
It’s amazing, daunting and ultimately exhilarating. Taking the mantle from Chef (Jared) Chamberlain is an honor. We have worked together for the last three years, and I am thankful for his friendship and guidance.
Do you have any memories of Bodean from when you were growing up in Tulsa?
Yes, absolutely. My parents prepared for boils at the market back in the ’80s. I finally had the pleasure of joining my mom in the restaurant as an adult. The trout has always been her favorite menu item, and I have assured her it will not change.
When did you decide you wanted a culinary career?
My dad taught me to cook with a cast iron skillet when I was in the Boy Scouts, and who would have guessed it would become a necessary survival skill in my early 20s. At that time, I was putting the “starving” in artist, so I worked in kitchens to eat and fuel my art (he studied at the Academy of Fine Art New Orleans). Somewhere in there, the lines blurred, and the creativity merged. The way I cooked became more of a craft, and my art reflected the life of a chef.
You worked at Emeril Lagasse’s famous Delmonico restaurant in New Orleans. Tell us about that.
What can I say? There is no place like home. I started my chef career opening Dels, ventured out into kitchens from the Riverbend to the French Quarter, and actually closed my 15-year stint in New Orleans back at Delmonico as their saucier (saute chef). The people at that restaurant and in that scene are like my family, and I have been honored to serve with them.
What chefs have influenced you the most?
Anthony Bourdain is like the patron saint of old-school chefs, so a glass tap is in order there. As for up-close-and-personal figures that have molded me, I’d have to say Gerard Crozier, Leah Chase and Paul Prudhomme.
Where do you like to eat in Tulsa?
Sisserou’s and Stonehorse have been safeties since we moved here. They deliver every time.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I’m not an Instagram chef. Putting a sepia filter over a bowl of grits doesn’t give them authenticity, and stuff like that actually inspires me to rebel against the social media food culture all together. It lights a spark for me to create moments for guests that can’t be replicated online. Food should be felt, it should be personal, and I’m passionate about serving up that kind of experience.
What would we find if we looked in your refrigerator?
My wife, Emma, is a connoisseur of hot sauces, seasoning salts and pickled things. Beyond all that indigestion is a random selection of charcuterie.
Is there anything new on the horizon at Bodean?
Bodean is an institution. It holds a level of integrity for its dishes that has defined fine dining for centuries, which makes it immune to the changing tides of fad food. You can expect that my style is a bit different from my predecessors, but I’m philosophically consistent with what they do. I love it, and it’s a privilege to be a part of it.