This past Thanksgiving weekend I randomly joined friends for a beer at a local bar. It quickly became an impromptu reunion of old high school friends sharing over old and new stories over beer. I am happy for all my friends and their successes but one in particular I wanted to share with y'all, Dustin Leek owner of Melt, Broadway at the Beach, Myrtle Beach, SC. Dustin is not great with social media so its hard to follow his career but I had heard a lot of great things from others over the years that Dustin's career has reached ownership status but didn't know much past that. While catching up at our impromptu reunion he told me a lot about successful restaurants and achievements within them. He shared with me the concepts and menu inspirations, including his dessert: Chocolate Chip Brioche Bread Pudding and he is generous enough to share it here! But before we get to the recipe, we get a peek inside Dustin's head!
Why this Career
I've always loved food, When my parents got divorced I was in my teens, Mom went back to school, and I became the cook at home a lot of the time. First Job was at Gioninos in Brimfield (pizza shop in our hometown). Moved away for college and started working FOH (industry term for front of house), bartending serving etc. It became something I had to grow into. I started working in restaurants like everyone else, it was a way to pay the bills. After college I worked a few office jobs and always had a side gig bartending because I liked the interaction with people you don't get in a cubicle.
After honing some skills I was offered my first management position and decided to check the change of pace out. After some restructuring in the management team a culinary position came available so I jumped at the chance. I worked in that role for 2 years before changing companies and worked another 2 years before I just felt burnt. When my brother opened his first restaurant in Ohio, I looked at what they had accomplished and wanted that for myself. My brother Blake and I always kept our ear to the ground on different properties that we thought could really have an impact on our local market. After seeing numerous spots we'd scouted become hits, it was time to put our plan in action.
We found a nice commercial location, near a growing college, and decided to jump feet first. There were plenty of growing pains, but we became a staple in the area, and actually had to expand into the unit next to us. 7 years later, we have been able to spring board off our original restaurant and open 2 different concepts bringing our total to 3 restaurants in the area. Our latest venture has allowed us to open a location in South Carolina's #1 tourist destination which has been an honor to say the least. Were 6 months into this new venture and we have the same growing pains as any new business but we have been fortunate to already taken home some hardware. In November we won "Best Judged Dessert" at the annual taste of the town awards for our Chocolate Chip Brioche Bread Pudding.
Where did I get this recipe?
This recipe came from taking different components from different experiences at restaurants throughout the years. I feel like bread pudding gets a bad rap, It seems like its an only served in retirement homes, but it can be done really well if you take the right ingredients and combine them. I love Brioche, its so sweet and screams make me into a dessert. I never really ventured into desserts in my other restaurants so I wanted to do something easy but effective. I love bourbon as well, if I'm drinking liquor I am a bourbon man. I remember having a bourbon glaze on a brioche french toast so thats where the bourbon butter comes from. I knew it needed something but I'm not a big fan of fruits or nuts in desserts especially with food allergies these days, so naturally chocolate chips won in the end. The vanilla bean ice cream was a no brainer.
If I could do anything different
I probably would have went to culinary school instead of traditional university. There are some techniques I will admit I'm either unfamiliar with or lacking in. I have at times felt unworthy of my position because I've had employees with more technical training than me, but I actually prefer that in many ways, it helps me and my businesses by hiring rising stars. At the same time, the experiences I've gained from working with chefs that didn't have technical backgrounds have taught me there are always 2 ways to skin a cat to say the least.
Challenges I've faced
1. Funding is a big one, Banks do not lend money to unproven concepts. We have had to beg borrow and steal to get where we are today. Even with a brand doing well over the million dollar mark funding can be a nightmare. Even when they see your daily deposits. We've had to bypass loan officers and hound bank presidents to get the funding we need. If anyone knows an angel investor please give them my info lol.
2. Good people are hard to find. With a restaurant every 2 feet people will walk away at the drop of a hat. We really try to teach and treat our employees as family. You re only as good as your weakest link and you cannot do this alone. When we invest in someone we invest hard, and will give the shirt off our back to keep them.
3. I am a working owner, which means I am very hands on so trust can be a issue. I also am a perfectionist when it comes to food being sold, it has to be consistent every time, so being hands off and trusting employees to do it as we've trained them can be tough. There is a way we build items and it has to be followed to a T. So letting go of the reigns can be a challenge at times. Thats where having quality employees and retaining them comes in.
What drives me
I want to look back and be proud of what we've built. I constantly want to move forward and try new exciting things in the kitchen and take risks that others might. If you had a Ferrari you wouldn't drive it 35, you'd redline that bitch. I want to take chances and make an impact on guests and our team. I'd love to retire early as well, see the world, so this hopefully gives me an outlet for that. There is nothing more freeing than being your own boss as well, you get out what you put in so thats why I kill myself to keep things profitable because one day, god willing, Ill be able to relax.
To visit MELT and follow on Instagram:
1320 Celebrity Circle, Myrtle Beach, Sc 29577
Chocolate Chip Brioche Bread Pudding
16 cups brioche (1 to 1.5 loaves depending on which brand)
2 cups choc chips
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy creme
1 cups sugar
2 Tsp vanilla extract
Bourbon Butter (not pictured)
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/8 cup milk
1/8 cup bourbon of choice - any well bourbon
cut brioche into inch by inch squares using serrated knife, important to use serrated so it doesn't mush bread. We don't let the bread sit at room temp like a lot of people do, we like it to have moisture so we remove from package and start cutting immediately.
using sweet cream butter grease a 13" x 9" cake pan on bottom and all sides to prevent sticking.
combine eggs, whole milk, heavy creme and sugar in large bowl and whisk until evenly combined.
4. take 1/2 brioche bread and layer bottom of hotel pan, and add 2 cups of choc chips, then add the remaining bread for second layer and 2 more cups of choc chips. you want to spread choc chips around as even as possible.
5. after you have your bread and choc chips in pan, take the wet mixture and pour over as even as possible. you want to pat down the mixture into the bread and make sure there are no dry spots. this takes 1-2 min of pressing down to make sure all bread is covered with wet mix. you want to press down with a bit of force an bread will shrink down by about a 1/4.
6. bake in convection if available for 35 min at 300 degrees, my convection is a little skitzy so I check and sometimes leave in longer up to 45 min. I non-convection 325 degrees 35-45 min. the bread pudding will rise and I check it with toothpicks, its done when perfectly golden brown on top and pick comes out clean.
bourbon butter - in a skillet or sauce pan over low heat melt butter, then whisk in milk, sugar and lastly bourbon. when it is thoroughly whisked flash on high until edges bubble keep stirring
we portion in 4x4 squares and finish with scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and top with bourbon butter to your liking.