Apronomics – Max Bredenkoetter of Temperance Kitchen

Max Bredenkoetter grew up in Ballwin. Some of his earliest culinary memories were enjoying the Asian restaurants on Olive Boulevard with his father who worked in commercial real estate in the area. “Since I was 5, I went with him to meet clients and business partners, and we spent basically every holiday eating Chinese food down there,” he recalls. “I started cooking at home when I was around 14. After I got my driver’s license, I had more time alone after school. I’d spent it watching the Food Network, especially Chopped. I decided that was something that I could do, and instead of following recipes, I started creating new things. My love of food and cooking grew from there.”

While cooking was an early passion for Bredenkoetter, he didn’t initially plan on making the hobby his career. Instead, he went to university to study accounting. However, a serious health incident made him reevaluate his priorities. “Right before the pandemic, I was really sick with an infection in my leg,” he explains. “It left me bed bound for around three weeks. When COVID-19 hit, everything went online, so it became unfeasible for me to catch up on what I had missed. During that time, I decided that I wanted to do something I enjoyed for a living—instead of getting a job just to fund a hobby I’m passionate about. I’ve never looked back from there.”

In late 2021, Bredenkoetter connected with chef Blake Askew at a Bulrush staff party. Bredenkoetter was looking for a restaurant job, and Askew was preparing to launch a pop-up series called Mainlander. “Blake needed someone with a flexible schedule, and I fit the bill,” Bredenkoetter says. “I didn’t have much experience, but he decided to bring me on and teach me as much as he could. Now, almost two and half years later, I’m still working with him.” He was part of the team that opened Mainlander in the Central West End in 2023, taking his place in the kitchen as sous chef.

Bredenkoetter’s transition into the culinary world was successful, but it also was a challenging one, especially considering his personal history. “I’m three years sober from alcohol,” he notes. “I had a problem with binge drinking that was seriously impacting my life and health. At 23, I started the process of getting sober on my own.” He had some concerns about entering a field that is known for such a high rate of substance abuse. “I knew things would be stressful and I would be constantly surrounded by temptations,” he says. “I was less than a year sober, but I felt solid in my sobriety, and I was.”

Bredenkoetter recognized that even though he was successful in navigating sobriety, many other chefs and hospitality workers did not have the support system to do so. “A restaurant is such a high pressure environment, and it’s difficult to find spaces in the industry that don’t involve alcohol,” he explains. “Imagine working a nine-to-five, but one wall of your office is just liquor.” Looking for a way to address the problems of addiction and sobriety, Bredenkoetter came up with the idea for Temperance Kitchen. The initiative is aimed at raising awareness and funds for Ben’s Friends, a nonprofit support group for the restaurant industry.

Temperance Kitchen’s first pop-up event was held on April 15 at Mainlander, and a second is scheduled for May 20. Both events sold out—the April 15 one doing so within 24 hours. “It’s been amazing to see such an outpouring of support,” Bredenkoetter notes. “Other people in the food and beverage industry have been opening up about their struggles and sharing about the cause.”

He adds that Temperance Kitchen is not something he could have done on his own. To make the pop-ups possible, he’s been joined in the kitchen by Ben Grant of Bijoux Chocolates and Adam Dove (formerly of Bulrush and Vicia). Non-alcoholic cocktails were created by Jiana West from The Fortune Teller Bar and Téo Gibbs, who recently launched Chiron. Bredenkoetter also has been working with Taylor Streiff of O + O Pizza to establish a local Ben’s Friends support group, which launched in April.

The pop-ups this spring are just the beginning for Temperance Kitchen. Bredenkoetter is developing new ideas to raise awareness for the cause outside of formal plated dinners. “Everything is volunteer-operated, so we want to do what’s best for everyone we’re working with,” he says. “We want to be sure that we can be in different spaces and offer things at different price points. Our goal is to reach every level of the community so we can raise as much support for the cause as possible.”

chicken skin butter

1 lb. chicken skins
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp. minced sage
1 tbsp. minced chives
3 tbsp. toasted pecans
1 tsp. lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. kosher salt

  1. Toss together chicken skins and kosher salt.
  2. Lay skins flat on cookie sheet and bake at 425°F for 35 to 40 minutes until skin is caramel brown and crisp and little moisture remains.
  3. Drain off all fat and cool chicken skins on a paper towel. (Alternatively, you can reserve the chicken fat and use it to pan roast your cornbread later.)
  4. Chop cooked crisped chicken skins to about the size of bacon bits and combine with butter.
  5. Beat in spices, pecans, lemon juice and lemon zest until well combined and the butter is whipped and airy. Leave at room temperature if serving immediately or store in fridge until ready to use.

popcorn cornbread

1 ½ c. popcorn corn meal
½ c. Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Baking Flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt

¾ c. buttermilk
1⁄4 c. whole milk
½ stick melted butter
2 eggs
2 tbsp. honey (mix with melted butter to incorporate easier)

  1. Whisk to combine dry ingredients.
  2. Add wet into dry, and mix until homogenous and a thick paste
  3. Place into greased 9×9 pan
  4. Bake at 425°F 19 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  5. Immediately brush lightly with  honey and sprinkle Maldon flaky sea salt.
  6. To serve, cut into squares and bake at 425°F until warm, top with chicken skin butter and drizzle with honey

Photos: Bill Barrett


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