Tracker Pixel for Entry

​The art of taste: Judd Eskildsen wants to expand your palette

by HPR Contributor | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | All About Food | May 2nd, 2018


Justin

By Oscar Deleon
oscarldeleonjr@gmail.com

The rolling aroma of processed grains, malts, and yeast fill the dimly lit bar as Justin “Judd” Eskildsen walks his way through the distillation tanks. It is here where the spirits are churned to perfection. He jokes with a few of the handlers, moves with broad shoulders through a set of doors leading to his office behind the quaint kitchen. His office, a table surrounded by boxes of ingredients and spices, is as modest and as he is.

“Chances are I’ll never be a Michelin chef, but striving to be like my inspirations is what I do regardless,” Eskildsen said.

Despite his humble demeanor his culinary expertise has garnered him much acclaim around the Fargo-Moorhead area as he furthers his career as the executive chef at Proof Distillery.

Proof Distillery was started in 2014 by Joel Kath who, on the advice of his friends, decided to take his love for spirits and high proof alcohol and pursue the challenge of starting his own distillery. One thing that always lingered in his mind, however, was the need for food to accompany the high level of alcohol the patrons would be consuming.

“Joel always said it was irresponsible to serve spirits and high proof drinks without food so he had the idea he’d have little munchies here and there,” Eskildsen said. “In the beginning, I think he thought he could do it all himself, but it ended up getting big and realized he needed more. He hired me before Proof opened and as soon as he did I had a vision of what I wanted to do.”

Proof got so big, in fact, they have recently started distributing their alcohol in Arizona where some Fargo natives can seek it out comfortably in their flock, away from the bitter cold.

Eskildsen’s vision is to expand the tastes of the typically Scandinavian-leaning public that walk in and out of the distillery’s doors.

“Bridging the gap between what everyone is accustomed to here and fine food is tough; they need someone to ease them into it,” Eskildsen said. “If I can change the way this area eats or thinks about food then I’ll feel like I’ve won.”

The first thing on his agenda was to remove any and all condiments that you typically find at chain restaurants across the country.

“No ketchup, no ranch...salt and pepper aren’t on the tables...that was a huge problem right away. There were a lot of people asking for those things but I had to tell them we didn’t have any.” Eskildsen takes the responsibility of understanding what the consumer wants whether or not they are aware of it. It’s with this understanding that he crafts his food to fit the atmosphere inside the distillery as well as the needs of the public.

“The reason people come here makes it easier for me to cook for them,” Eskildsen said. “For example, in the summer I’ll be moving down to sandwiches because that’s when we slow down the most. People typically come in and buy bottles for the weekend and I don’t think they want to sit down for a big hearty meal. I want to do a real Jewish deli style sandwich, something lighter for them.”

It’s the level of high wire balancing that makes Eskildsen’s cooking especially tantalizing and inviting; he understands what you need.

Eskildsen grew up engrossed in his mother's cooking especially when she, in the late 80s, took a class from Phil Wong, a locally beloved Chinese chef who showed his mother how to experiment with herbs and spices. She also ended up with this cookbook called Yan Can Cook.

“I was 10 years old and there were pictures in that book full of ingredients I had never seen before and, back then, you couldn’t get those ingredients in town, so that really opened my eyes to what else there was other than your typical Scandinavian cooking. That really piqued my interest and made me realize that there was more you can do than, you know, gravy and potatoes.”

From that point on he grew curious and ventured to make his own meals starting at the age of 13 when he would ride his bike down to the local grocery store and pick out Italian sausages and pasta and try to make his own concoctions. He continued to follow his food passions until he took a detour as a unionized pipefitter and welder. For 12 years, the doldrums of the job wore on him and, by chance, he found himself on the path to regain his love for the culinary arts.

Eskildsen, who wears his Danish last name proudly, is determined. His presence is contradicting, at once passive and intensely passionate, the perfect balance someone of his profession has to maintain in any bustling kitchen.

“There are two main aspects to being a chef: preparing the food and the creativity of it. When I’m at home I’m constantly thinking about new dishes, new ways to do things, new ways to prepare things, what would go well with this or that...but in the actual act of cooking it’s completely blank. We are focusing on the tickets and what’s happening next.”

When asked whether or not he thinks food is art his blue eyes glimmer with life.

“There are so many aspects to it,” Eskildsen said. “It’s a painting, it’s a sculpture, and it’s interactive art as well. One of the things that most people don’t look at is the way they eat. The way I plate and craft the food is specifically set up for you to eat the way I want you to eat. So, not only am I crafting that flavor, color, and texture… there’s also the art of making them eat it that way.”

YOU SHOULD KNOW

Proof Distillery,

414 4th Ave N, Fargo,

Wed through Sat 5 p.m. - 12 a.m.; Sun Mon closed

(701) 353-5853

www.proofdistillers.com

Recently in:

BISMARCK – The North Dakota Attorney General’s office announced Friday it is suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for gross negligence and tortious acts during the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy in 2016.The state has…

The 45th Annual Downtown Fargo Street Fair has been making efforts to increase the number of local vendors. The Local Block will be located at the north end of the 300 block on Broadway, near the Fargo Theatre.The High Plains…

Thursday, July 26 at 5 p.m.-midnightFargo Brewing Company, 610 N University, FargoHip hop artist, community activist, and member of Rhymesayers, Brother Ali will appear with Nooky Jones at The Fargo Brewing Company. Nooky Jones was…

With all of the excitement surrounding the legalization of recreational and medicinal marijuana, why aren’t we discussing the possibilities of industrial hemp? You might not catch a buzz from it but there’s all kinds of other…

“Hi Ho, Hi Ho! It’s Off To Work We Go!”How many undocumented workers are in the United States? Estimates range from 11 to 25 million. We need some history to understand why our immigration laws are in such a mess. The most…

FARGO - A collection of memories from High Plains Reader's annual Cocktail Showdown. Participants were judged on creativity, flavor, and presentation; and this year we added a new category. Like years before, each establishment was…

All About Food

​Food truck fever

by HPR Contributor

By Ben Myhrebenmyhre35@gmail.comHave you all been to Taco Brothers Taco Truck yet? Or how about Poke Bowl Food Truck? Have you tried the Walleye Wrap at Chef Mobile? There may have been a few mobile food establishments in decades…

We had a chance to chat with Duluth native Gaelynn Lea at Winnipeg Folk Festival. Not only did she tell us how she developed her sound she told us about her experience winning the NPR Tiny Desk Concert and the trials and…

Boots Riley hallucinates a wildly funny feature debut with “Sorry to Bother You,” a sharp-fanged social satire that mashes up the innovative handmade aesthetics of Michel Gondry with the fierce truth-to-power consciousness of…

Arts

Dan Mihuta: The Art Maker

by HPR Contributor

By Rod Hadland rodanthonyhadland@gmail.comThe name Mr. Mihuta may not be familiar, but for most of my life, I’ve known that name. There was a television show where Mr. Mihuta taught art projects, in various mediums, that I…

Theatre

Xanadu: The Musical

by HPR Contributor

By Tayler Klimektklimek@cord.eduGet ready to dive into a world full of demi-gods, mythological creatures, and plenty of disco balls when you see Fargo-Moorhead Community Theater’s exciting first show of its 72nd season:…

Fargo has its share of people who are passionate about stand-up comedy, even if the success of clubs devoted to it has been mixed. Despite the fact we have seen places like Courtney’s Comedy Club and Level 2 Comedy Club close…

Once a year, fans of beer in the FM area have access to what their heart desires... bragging rights. The Rare Beer Picnic grants beer aficionados the ability to taste whatever their heart desires from their favorite beer…

Best Local CelebrityCarson WentzBest Stylist / BarberJed Felix, Everett’s BarbershopBest Salon / Barber ShopEverett’s BarbershopBest Tattoo Parlor46 & 2 TattooBest Tattoo ArtistMeg Felix, No Coast TattooBest Gift ShopZandbroz…

By Melissa Martinmelissamartincounselor@live.comThink back to one of your worst small decisions. Then answer the following questions:How did you make the decision?What happened after the decision?When did you know it was the worst…

By Gary Olsonolsong@moravian.edu Recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.- The United Nations…