“The best biscuits I’ve ever had – and they’re right here in Ocean Beach”

by on July 12, 2016 · 8 comments

in Culture, Ocean Beach

OB Emery Renner bisquit mh 3OB Local Emery Renner Wins Praise for his Culinary Delights

By South OB Girl

In June at the First Responders Appreciation BBQ an ambitious young college student by the name of Emery Renner was handing out his resume looking for a summer job.

I was sitting at the table of attendees that he handed his resume to and we began to ask him some questions — What was he studying? Where was he going to school? What year in school was he? What sort of job was he looking for? What were his interests?

OB Emery Renner bisquit mh 1

Emery Renner. Photos by South OB Girl

His answers were impressive – he is majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance at San Francisco State University. He likes to play music, read, write, swim, camp, and walk his dogs.

And he also likes to cook. And bake. And in particular, he likes to bake biscuits.

Now that really caught my attention. Biscuits!! How unique.

This young man is a born and raised OBcean. I was so intrigued when I heard about his skills in baking biscuits that I arranged to interview him and ask some more questions about his biscuit baking. He offered to bake some biscuits for the time we scheduled and that was an offer I could not refuse.

While talking with Emery about his interest in cooking and biscuits, I had the opportunity to sample some of his perfectly buttery, perfectly fluffy biscuits fresh from the oven.

And I will declare right now that I have had the best biscuits I have ever had — from the oven of Emery Renner.

Biscuits happen to be something I know a thing or two about.

I spent some time living in the South. I’ve had my fair share of biscuits. And gravy. And grits. Sweet tea, collard greens, fried okra, black-eyed peas, and pecan pie.

Emery’s skills with biscuits are unparalleled and his biscuits are – I’ll say it again – the best I have ever had.

OB Emery Renner bisquit mh 2Once I had finished sampling the delightful biscuits I launched into a session of questions and answers.

Q: How did he first become interested in biscuits?
A: He developed an interest in soul food in general. BBQ. Mac and cheese. Cole slaw.

Q: When did he start cooking/baking?
A: As a young boy. Elementary school. His mother was very patient with him and taught him some of the basics at a young age.

Q: When did he start making more elaborate meals?
A: In high school. When his mom was in graduate school working on her PhD in cognitive science at UCSD (I think intelligence and ambition run in the family). He also began to cook full meals as he became more proficient in cooking. And as cooking full meals “with all the fixins” became something that he did for family and friends more often.

Q: When did biscuits become part of his repertoire?
A: 2 or 3 years ago at Thanksgiving. (He also likes to make his own pumpkin pie from a fresh pumpkin, and not canned pumpkin. He roasts and purees the pumpkin. And makes his own pie dough too.)

Q: How did biscuits become a part of his daily life?
A: Gradually. Over the last 2-3 years, as part of his hectic life as a college student. He also found biscuit baking to be a cost effective food option. He can bake 6 or 7 dozen biscuits from 1 bag of flour. He finds biscuits to be a quick and delicious meal when he is busy at school. To Emery it is very straight forward how his interest in biscuits developed– he found something he likes and he perfected the recipe.

Q: Does he suggest any toppings for biscuits?
A: He will eat biscuits with honey if he wants something sweet. And biscuits with sausage and gravy if he wants something savory.

Q: How often does he bake biscuits?
A: Depends on his schedule. During the school year about once a week, on a Sunday morning.

Q: How did he develop his passion for cooking?
A: He enjoys cooking for himself and others. He knows what he likes and prefers to cook for himself and do everything in the kitchen himself. He feels more confident about the food that is prepared when he makes it himself. Wanting to be in charge of the quality of his own food has led to a knowledge of cooking and some impressive skills in the kitchen. He also has some fond memories of watching cooking shows with his grandmother when he was growing up.

Q: Some of his culinary inspirations?
A: Alton Brown. Anthony Bourdain. Saveur magazine.

He has been a long time fan of Alton Brown of The Food Network. And Emery approaches cooking with much the same scientific approach and curiosity. He, like Alton Brown, is interested in why certain ingredients do different things… Why different ratios of different ingredients do different things… How variations in preparation and ingredients effect taste and texture. Emery has experimented, by trial and error, to find the ratio of flour to butter that makes the best biscuits; he has experimented with the number of times to fold the dough; and he has experimented with bake times and temperature. He has experimented with ingredients, experimented with techniques, and he has experimented to find what works best — and then tries to consistently replicate successes.

Q: Recipe?
A: It is a secret recipe. So fine-tuned at this point he is not ready to go public with it.

Q: Ingredients?
A: Buttermilk. Butter. Low-gluten flour. He prefers to freeze the butter and then grate the butter with a cheese grater. And he also prefers low-gluten flour. Not for a health benefit; not because he buys into the “gluten is bad” fad, but rather because the low-gluten content helps to keep the biscuits from getting chewy or tough. He also prefers buttermilk. He is not partial towards any brand for his ingredients, and just recommends good, quality ingredients.

Q: Technique?
A: His technique is so refined that he is very precise about how many times to fold the dough and how far the biscuit dough should go on the pan. A steel biscuit cutter is necessary — and just using the edge of a circular drinking glass to cut the dough is inadequate.

He is very specific about the number of times the dough should be folded. Three to four times. If the dough is folded too many times though, the biscuits will be too chewy. Also very specific — the chef must stir enough times when he/she first adds the liquid or else the biscuits don’t come out right.

And also the dough should be placed closely together on the pan. The biscuits will “push up” towards each other and rise upwards, and be flakier. If the dough is spaced out with more room between each biscuit, the biscuits will rise out and not up. And will be less flakey.

No cans of prepared biscuit dough for this young man. His preference: From scratch. With a refined technique based on his experiments. And for his own eating pleasure (or the pleasure of his family and friends) — and for his own sustenance.

As proficient as he is in the kitchen — it’s not all baking for Emery. This fall he will be a senior and he will take on his position as President of the Management Organization for Business Students (he was previously Treasurer). As Treasurer he managed the SF State graduation ceremony, with 800 in attendance and generated revenue of $26,000. As President Elect he has prepared strategies to increase fundraising by 500%. He is also a member of the Marketing Association at San Francisco State.

What an inspiration for the youth of the community! And an inspiration for us all. I can think of a few people I know who might like to head back to college and develop some new skills — and when and if you meet Emery, you can’t help but be inspired by his youth, curiosity, and ambition. I thought I knew a few things about biscuits — and I do. But I don’t know nearly as much as Emery, that’s for sure.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Lyle July 13, 2016 at 8:20 am

Those look good. I’d buy some if they were available at Stumps or Olive Tree.

Reply

Geoff Page Geoff Page July 13, 2016 at 10:18 am

Not wanting to steal any thunder from Mr. Renner but there are some other great biscuits in OB only on Saturday and Sunday mornings at Jake & Eggs on Sunset Cliffs. They are a pop up business in the same restaurant as Sundara, OB’s great Indian restaurant. Their biscuits are also wonderful if you can’t get your hands on Mr. Renner’s. They come with the most amazing jelly or as biscuits and some really terrific gravy. Good food for all!

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie July 13, 2016 at 10:32 am

Okay, sounds like it’s time to do a “best biscuits in OB” review. Any takers? And, btw, I made some recently with yogurt instead of milk and Patty thought they were very tasty.

Reply

Geoff Page Geoff Page July 13, 2016 at 10:46 am

How about “great biscuits in OB” because they’re all good. Maybe even yours, Frank!

Reply

South OB Girl July 13, 2016 at 11:13 am

Great ideas everyone!! I have heard great things as well about Jake & Eggs sharing space with Sundara. Per usual — article generated unexpected discussion!! Excellent suggestions Lyle, Geoff, and Frank!!

Reply

nostalgic July 14, 2016 at 9:30 am

Maybe OB can become known for biscuits instead of beer. Yes, Geoff, “Jake & Eggs” is great! But are there any other places that make their own biscuits? We could have Beer and Biscuits, of course.

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Geoff Page Geoff Page July 14, 2016 at 9:51 am

I could live on beer and biscuits, Nostalgic. I don’t know of any other places that make good ones but perhaps others will chime in. Maybe we can get the breweries to provide Mr. Renner’s biscuits as part of their fare. That would be good for him and the rest of us.

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South OB Girl July 15, 2016 at 12:16 pm

Looking forward to a future in OB filled with fish tacos, shrimp cocktails, Indian food, Cuban pastries, pizza, burgers — and biscuits and beer!!  And lots of walks on the pier and on the cliffs to burn off all the calories.

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