The age-old saying of “don’t play with your food” does not apply to this story. In fact, Chef Brandon Hanisee suggests everyone — children and adults — should just get their hands messy because that’s how he fell in love with food.

“My mom gave me that joy of cooking. My mother and father were my first two customers,” he said while sitting in a private back room of his current role, executive chef for Superior’s Steakhouse.

Chef Brandon Hanisee

“My mom taught me breakfast. Breakfast was simple — omelet, scrambled eggs — but there’s something to be said about just an omelet, even as simple as it is, because a French omelet is folded. If I didn’t get it exactly right, I’d throw the whole thing away and start over,” he said.

Even at a young age, Hanisee’s strive for perfection ran deep, but it wouldn’t be until later in his life that he’d refine his palate and become the chef he is today. As a recent transplant to the northwest Louisiana area, he only has a year of cooking in Louisiana under his belt (and six months at Superior’s), but so far it’s been rewarding.

“I never fathomed becoming a chef. I always thought I’d be in business, but that’s more of my dad talking than myself,” he said. “Once I got that spark, I took it and ran with it.”

Since the age of 15, Hanisee, now 46, has been in a kitchen — and really longer than that if you include his childhood. With a parent in the military, Hanisee has been accustomed to traveling and experiencing food from various cultures. His first job was for a Marriott hotel in Washington, D.C. as a dishwasher. Six months later, he was on the line cooking. He shared that he was a shy teenager, but cooking gave him confidence.

Once Hanisee graduated from high school, he, too, joined the military. He saw it as a way to pursue his dreams of communications engineering. But even then, his passion for food was always a part of his life.

“We weren’t supposed to have hot plates or deep fryers in the military, but I did,” he said, laughing.

After returning home from the military, Hanisee continued working for various restaurants until he decided to attend Johnson & Wales University in South Carolina where he was classically trained in French cuisine. There, he was able to study under two master chefs, Chef Roland Gilg and Chef Christian Delouvrie.

Chef Brandon Hanisee

“They were like day and night,” he said. “I was being molded like clay. One of them was very patient and a kind person. He would take his time out to guide you along. The other was a beast, but once you got in, he had a lot of knowledge. I learned more from those two guys than I learned at culinary school.”

The education he received propelled him to open his own catering business in South Carolina, Creative Cuisine. It was during that time he met his former wife and the mother of his two children.

Even as an adult, Hanisee still felt shy, but because of his business and his wife, he was able to create a brand. Eventually, his long hours in the kitchen and persistent perfection would drive a wedge between the two. She left for Kentucky and he would eventually make his way to Glen Falls, New York to work with one of his brothers on a new endeavor — a Tex-Mex style steakhouse.

For just over two years, Hanisee served as head chef, among other roles, at the family-style restaurant.

“I was washing dishes and cooking and working as general manager, doing payroll, handling liquor, front of the house, back of the house, cleaning,” he said. “I worked 158 days in a row and got a three-day vacation.”

As head chef, the first thing he prioritized was the menu and crafting something that wasn’t underpriced or overpriced for the area. He recalled one of the menu items, chuck flap for fajita meat, he suggested as an alternative to the usual skirt steak. Does that make him a food snob? Maybe, but he’s OK with it.

“There’s something we’re working on. It’s a little hush-hush.”

“That’s my job. I’m supposed to be a food snob. That’s why I pick personal products in my kitchen,” he said. “Chuck flap was $1 cheaper. I knew it would catch on; people would come. It’s an isolated muscle group and not stringy like a skirt steak. There’s great marbling, great flavor and it comes from Black Angus.”

Even with his tried-and-true methods of selection and crafting culinary delights in New York, Hanisee yearned to be with his family, and when his other family moved to Louisiana, he knew he wanted to take that opportunity as well. With two sisters, two brothers and his parents, he felt it was the right choice to move this time — even though he still doesn’t get to see them quite as often as he’d like.

“Having my family here is a great support simply because chef-life has been extremely difficult. To climb that ladder, it’s a lot of hours. I’ve lost a lot of people along the way. My work is just all consuming,” he said. “It gets gloomy and to have family around is really a good thing, especially my brother. I actually live with my brother because I don’t even have the time to find myself an apartment.”

Since landing his job at Superior’s Steakhouse, Hanisee has also worked for the now defunct Ristorante Giuseppe and one of the local casinos. He said this is one of the first times he’s just been able to focus on his food, the menu and being an executive chef.

“You get to use products you’ve seen or heard of and really wanted to try; it’s something new,” he said, leaving a little to the imagination about an upcoming project he has in store. “There’s something we’re working on. It’s a little hush-hush. I’m still trying to find a place to make this happen. Something that’s totally never been done.”

What is it? You’ll just have to wait and see like the rest of us, but here’s a hint: Hanisee’s taking something he loves — something people love, and putting his own twist on it.

When he’s not in Superior’s kitchen and he’s whipping up something for himself, his favorite dish consists of grilled ham steak, homemade macaroni and cheese, collard greens and pepper vinegar. Oh yeah, and he mixes it all together.

“It’s just something that reminds me of home because it’s something my mother would have actually done,” he said.

He made sure to mention that southern food is something hardly found up North (at least none that’s done right), and while he was working at his brother’s restaurant, he tended to cook up these sorts of dishes for the other employees.

When he’s out and about (or cooking for himself), he goes for fish — but not just any fish. He prefers a halibut or “weird” fish that no one’s ever heard of such as barrelfish, wreckfish or monkfish.

“I’m not a big fan of Chilean sea bass. It’s an overfished fish. It’s creeping up on the endangered species list,” he said. “I’m not fond of anything that’s going to put any species in danger just because it’s white, flaky and juicy all the time.”

His thought process is meticulous when it comes to his menu. He said food shopping with him, even if it’s planned, can still take time because you never know what’s going to be actually available until you’re there.

His biggest piece of advice for anyone who’s prepping for a career in the kitchen: “never be arrogant and don’t just be mediocre.”

“I still go on the computer and YouTube things. Sushi? I YouTube it to look up which direction they cut the fish. I know there’s a method to the madness. I didn’t study in Japan,” he said. “Never be too complacent to think that you know it all. Never be complacent with mediocrity.”