This is the second in a series of interview posts we’ll be doing. Owner Samantha Genke started things off, and now it’s time to shift focus to her younger brother, owner Austin Genke. Austin is one of our fearless leaders, a talented chef and farmer, a proud dad and husband, a workaholic, and an ice-cream aficionado. Samantha posed some questions to him so that we can all get to know him a little better.
S: What did you think you were going to be when you grew up? I remember you wanting to be an alligator. Is that still true?
A: Ha ha! I did want to be an alligator, but when I realized that it wasn’t possible I wanted to be a secret service agent. My Uncle E.J. was one. He was the coolest. He guarded the Clintons.
S: So instead you ended up cooking great food. You have worked in many amazing restaurants under fancy and famous chefs, including Mario Batali. You make the best pasta I have ever had… Why switch to cheese?
A: ‘Cause I love cheese and being at the farm. I still love cooking, too. I want to find a way to incorporate everything. I would love to have a catering venue out here. Maybe host weddings. I love cooking, but I think cheesemaking is close enough to keep me happy. It really makes me happy when people enjoy my food and now they will be able to enjoy my cheese. The best thing about working in a restaurant is “family meal.” It’s when all the staff sits down together and enjoys a meal. Sometimes it’s before service or after, but it’s the best thing. I can see there being “family meal” in the cheese house. I like to think of this cheese house as the first step to having people enjoy this farm as much as I do. And however that unfolds will be exciting.
S: What lessons has your work life taught you besides how awesome family meal is?
A: To work harder than the person next to you.
S: You always are working harder!!! Don’t you get tired? Do you plan on retiring? When?
A: Yes!! I am going to retire and also no. I look at retiring as not having to worry about money, but not necessarily not working. I want to open a small restaurant in Cedar Grove, a restaurant that doesn’t have to make money. One where I can just cook what I want without worrying if it makes money or not.
S: Since we are back to talking about food, what is your favorite ingredient to cook with?
A: Good humanely raised and slaughtered pork.
S: What is your favorite kitchen tool?
A: A good sauté pan.
S: If you were stranded on an island with one kitchen tool and three food items what would they be? You already get fish, coconuts, and bananas since they are already growing on your island.
A: The tool would be a freezer with a built-in generator and it would obviously have enough gas to keep my strawberry ice cream (the good stuff; not the airy cheap ice cream) frozen. Ingredients would be strawberry ice cream, milk, and rice.
S: What dish would you make from this island situation?
A: Well, more of a meal, concluded with a strawberry milkshake. That way anything prior to the shake wouldn’t matter, it would be more of just filler.
S: If someone else were treating you to a fancy dinner where would you want to go?
A: Gramercy Tavern. We went there when I graduated. It was amazing!
S: We have such a big family. Who are your favorite relatives?
A: It’s hard to say they are my “favorites” because all of my family is so great, but I love my wife, Dani, and my son, Ari. They are my biggest supporters. My cousins Emma and Marshall are also super awesome! They have put in a lot of hard work to get us to this point with the farm. Marshall is here five days a week helping me build the creamery. I couldn’t do it without him.
S: Who has been the biggest influence on your life?
A: Paul Genke, my pops. He is the grapefruit king down in Florida. He has taught me to work hard. To listen to both sides of every story. He fully enjoys his life and he surrounds himself with great people. I aspire to do the same.
S: Ok. One last and very important question. What is your spirit animal?
A: You say I’m a bird of prey. Maybe a falcon.