He’d never admit it, but Brian Green is bone-tired. Executive chef at Tulsa’s Noche, he’s been working fifteen hour days for three weeks straight, with only one day off: Thanksgiving. That’s what you have to do if you’re opening what could be Tulsa’s most exciting new restaurant, with a kitchen where excellence is the norm. Besides, it’s always been that way for Green.
Growing up in St. Louis, he spent a lot of time with his grandparents.
“They kept me busy with cleaning, yard work – there was always something going on,” Green recalls. “The best part was cooking. Once a week, we cooked for the whole extended family. We’d decide the menu over morning coffee before I went to elementary school.”
In high school, learning by the book bored him. One day, a teacher at Bishop DuBourgh High asked him what he wanted to do in life.
“The only two things I enjoy in life,” Green told her, “are drinking beer and cooking.”
The next day, she brought him a handful of pamphlets about cooking school. He decided to get a temp job at a restaurant to see if he liked the life. He snagged a Yellow Pages and found a name he liked: Wolfgang Puck. Phoning the restaurant, he was told that they were short-staffed for a big event that evening. So, he found himself cooking at a gala for 800 people. Cary McDowell was the lead chef, and Green ended up working for him, off and on, for almost a decade.
“There’s not much I do today that I didn’t learn from Cary,” says Green. “What awed me was his total confidence. He always looked like he’d been cooking for a million years. I wanted to be like that.”
After, Green moved to New York and landed a job at one of New York’s best, Cafe Boulud. There, Green learned “complete military training in culinary finesse. Everything you thought you knew got tossed out the window. I learned how to show respect for everything I did, from the way I dressed to each ingredient of a dish to the china dishes themselves.”
By 2015, Green wanted to go home. He got a job with James Beard award-winning chef Kevin Nashan, and worked for several years at Peacemaker, Nashan’s seafood restaurant in St. Louis, then followed Nashan to Tulsa.
“We brought Peacemaker to Tulsa and we had a blast,” says Green, who has been working in Tulsa ever since.
Like many in the industry, the pandemic took a toll on Green and he thought of quitting. ‘Stay in Tulsa,’ a friend told him, ‘I have someone you should talk to.’ That someone was restaurateur Sheamus Feeley, and he persuaded Green to help him open Noche.
“Our goal,” Green says, “is to bring something awesome here that otherwise you’d have to go to Mexico City to get.”
It wouldn’t have been possible, Green is certain, if Feeley hadn’t signed Marco Herrera on to be chef de cuisine. Herrera grew up in El Paso, and in recent years he’s devoted himself to studying and cooking the cuisine of Mexico. He was one of the chefs at Et Al., Tulsa’s James Beard semifinalist for Best New Restaurant.
“He’s the real deal and we complement each other,” says Green.
Of Noche, Green says: “Oh, I love this restaurant. I love the smells. There’s a plancha and an oven and a woodfire grill. When I come in and there’s meat on the grill, it brings me back to my grandma’s house. When I came there as a child, there was always the aroma of something cooking. It’s amazing how things come back to the beginning. Almost destiny, you’d say.”
Chef Brian Green’s Tomatillo Salsa
2 lbs. tomatillo, boiled
10 fresh fried garlic cloves
2 large onions, fried and iced
4 jalapenos, stemmed and boiled
1/2 cup lime juice
2 bunches of cilantro
Salt and white vinegar to taste
1. Clean your tomatillos
2. Boil the tomatillos and jalapenos until soft
3. Brown the garlic and onions in the fryer
4. Using a 22-quart and large stock blender, combine and pulse all ingredients until smooth
5. Store and cool rapidly