Some restaurants are created with one chef’s vision in mind and build everything to serve that inspiration. The chef creates the dishes, hires staff and runs the show in the kitchen to serve that singular purpose of making the vision come to life.
That is not Old Thousand.
The Chinese restaurant opened in 2016 at 1000 E. 11th St. A year later, Jeff Brown took on the role of executive chef, and Rhys Davis became sous chef when original chefs James Dumapit and David Baek left for other opportunities. Throughout those two years, the menu has evolved based on input from everyone in the kitchen, often starting with a dish a cook thought up for the staff’s daily “family meal.”
“We’ve always been a very cook-centric kitchen, and it’s been a collaborative melting pot of ideas. It was never a particular person’s vision or ‘I say this; you do it,’” Davis said. “We all kind of pepper in little things here and there.”
Brown came to Old Thousand from downtown restaurant Fixe Southern House, working under chefs James Robert and Zach Hunter. He says he also learned about the intangibles of cooking by working with chefs, including Dumapit, Baek, Emmer & Rye’s Page Pressley and Guild sous chef Hannah Yerby.
“I think a good chef can pick something up from everybody they come in contact with,” Brown said.
The spirit of collaboration comes through on Old Thousand’s menu, which the chefs describe as “dope Chinese” and balances Asian flavors with some departures from the traditional styles—like the Cubano spring rolls on the weekend dim sum brunch menu filled with ham, Swiss cheese and mustard
“It’s funky. It’s like the vibe in here. We ride the fine line of kitsch and elevated [cuisine],” Brown said.
Although Brown, Davis and the kitchen staff are always tinkering, there is one dish Brown expects will never leave the menu—the brisket fried rice.
“I don’t see how anyone could walk away from that dish not feeling satisfied,” he said.
With that lone exception, the kitchen is always looking for tweaks and improvements to be made elsewhere. This summer, Old Thousand launched a monthly vegan night in addition to the regular dinner menu as a way to get creative and add more options.
“There’s a slew of people behind us, and there’s pieces of all of them [in designing the menu]. It’s collaborative, and there are so many hands involved. It’s not something two people can take credit for,” Davis said.