“I’ve done the cheffy thing for a long time,” says Olamaie’s Michael Fojtasek. “Now, I just want to do simple American food done well.” For the James Beard Award–nominated chef, he’s channeling that no-frills mantra into a lifelong love of steakhouses. But how to steer the category from its stuffy, mahogany-shrouded proclivities? At May Day on South Congress, Fojtasek is pairing a vibrant, botanic-themed space with chophouse classics reinterpreted with a sense of humor. Most notably, you see that fun and approachability in dishes like his tribute to that king of the strip-mall splurge: Outback Steakhouse. Here, the keys to the chef’s take on the Bloomin’ Onion.
To cut a yellow onion into the dish’s signature fanned-out shape, Fojtasek studied the YouTube videos of Cowboy Kent Rollins. “This stuff is not in the type of cookbooks we normally look to for inspiration,” the chef jokes. “You’re not going to find it in Jeremy Fox’s On Vegetables.”
After dusting the onion in all-purpose flour, he dunks it in buttermilk and a dredge of corn starch, smoked paprika, cumin, and black pepper.
Once it’s been fried in canola oil, the center must be cored out to release the wedges of onion into a pull-apart presentation. “We only have one onion corer in the whole restaurant, and I’m terrified we’re going to lose it,” Fojtasek says.
Unlike Outback Steakhouse’s horseradish-based sauce, Maie Day serves its interpretation with a mustard-heavy aioli. Fojtasek says it’s a natural progression from the 4-2-1 ratio of mustard, mayo, ketchup he applies to his burgers at Gimme Burger at Butler Pitch & Putt.