Like the prerequisite to board many roller coasters, local chef Brendan Collins’ intro to cooking was subject to a height threshold.
“I’ve been cooking basically since I could reach the counter on a step stool,” said Collins, who especially enjoyed helping out in the kitchen during family get-togethers throughout his childhood. “My dad was always into big holiday meals for as many people as we could have over; feasts for everyone.”
Nowadays Collins is dishing out meals for a living at peasants FEAST, where he was recently welcomed as the Solvang restaurant’s new chef de cuisine. Collins’ arrival coincides with a newly launched evening dinner service at the venue—which earned its reputation as a popular lunch destination over the past three years.
“It was always supposed to be a lunch and dinner restaurant,” said chef and co-owner Michael Cherney, who started peasants FEAST with his wife during the spring of 2020.
The eatery opened within two weeks of the first pandemic shutdowns, so its owners decided to shift gears from their original vision and solely focus on takeout lunches and eventually added outdoor dining on-site.
This March marked the intro of the restaurant’s dinner menu, offered during evening hours—with indoor and outdoor seating options—Thursday through Saturday each week. Some options on the new menu include a brined buttermilk fried chicken plate with garlicky greens, polenta, and herb honey; braised pork cheeks; varying cuts of prime steak; and a veggie-forward sunflower seed risotto, among several other selections.
“It’s not just a casual lunch spot anymore, and Brendan is helping us raise the bar,” Cherney said. “We have a lot going on, and for him to take charge and lead this dinner team to success is a huge progression with the business that we’ve been cultivating and building for the past three years.”
Collins—whose previous chef roles include positions at restaurants in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Los Angeles—said he jumped at the opportunity when he found out Cherney was looking for a chef de cuisine to lead the dinner service.
“It was something that Michael wanted to do for a while, but obviously he’s got so much on his plate between a really busy lunch restaurant, deli, arcade, and everything else,” Collins said. “I think he felt like he needed somebody he could trust to take care of it.”
The arcade that Collins mentioned is another one of the Cherney family’s latest ventures, and is located at peasants DELI & MARKET—across the street from peasants FEAST—where it opened in February.
“It’s kind of like a speakeasy,” explained Cherney, who said that most kids are surprised to discover the arcade—complete with vintage pinball machines, air hockey, racing games, and more—when families visit the deli. “All the windows are blacked out, so unless you know about it, you’re not going to know there’s a ’90s style arcade inside of there.”
In a similar low-key fashion, there’s a particular dish—which both Cherney and Collins ranked as their top personal favorite new dinner dish—stirring a surprising amount of buzz at peasants FEAST. It’s Collins’ roasted chanterelles.
“It’s a really tasty comfort food kind of dish,” Collins said. “We roast the chanterelles with cipollini onions, and then throw in our house crispy potatoes, and that gets topped with a brown butter hollandaise sauce, that just kind of hides it in the bowl. I think it’s a really fun presentation.”
Collins explained that he and his line cooks use locally foraged mushrooms in the popular offering.
“We don’t even promote that one on social media,” Cherney said, “and almost every single table that’s come in for dinner has ordered it and loved it.”
Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood is humming “Pinball Wizard.” Send comments to [email protected].