Entering high school, Austin Brick said he thought of himself as an athlete, not a chef.
While cooking was popular in his family — growing up, he'd watch his parents cook and play a game to identify spices in a dish — he didn't think about cooking as a career.
After he got a job as a prep cook at The Black Kettle restaurant in Catonsville during his junior year, Brick said he found a calling in the kitchen.
While he cut carrots and onions at the restaurant, he watched what others were doing and became intrigued. He noticed similarities in the kitchen and on the ball fields — he said they're both fast paced and intense.
Impressed with the level of artistry required in creating dishes and plating, he asked for more hours and more responsibilities.
Now, as a Catonsville High School senior, he'll have his own restaurant — at least for a night.
Brick, 18, will operate a pop-up restaurant, named Identité, at The Black Kettle Sunday, May 21.
The pop-up concept, as seen on television shows such as "Top Chef," is a restaurant that is open for a limited time, typically done to showcase a chef or to host a charity event. They often feature fixed-price meals.
Brick was inspired to have his own pop-up restaurant after seeing the idea in action while watching cooking shows on television. A mentor, former Black Kettle sous chef Min Kim, also did pop-up restaurants, he said.
"I can't really take responsibility for all the stuff that comes out of here," he said, sitting at a table outside the Black Kettle kitchen. "I want something that is truly mine."
He asked Black Kettle owner Kevan Vanek whether his restaurant idea could happen. Vanek approved.
"There were a lot of business aspects we had to figure out," Brick said.
This included getting a temporary food service permit from the Baltimore County Health Department, to give Brick responsibility for the food being served. He is also responsible for renting his own plates, silverware, linens and glasses, he said.
Brick will operate under the permission of Vanek's business license. The Black Kettle is typically closed on Sundays.
Vanek has a liquor license and will handle liquor sales for the night and allow for wine pairings to be offered at the dinner.
Vanek calls Brick his "youngest oldest employee," a nod to his age and his seniority at the restaurant — he's been there the longest, since the restaurant opened in October 2015.
"I can't wait to see what happens," Vanek said. "I think it's going to be a lot of fun for him. I know he'll do a good job."
The eight-course dinner will combine Brick's favorite ingredients, the French cooking techniques he learned from Vanek, along with influences from his background. A Korean dish will be an homage to Kim, while a Middle Eastern dish will pay tribute to his family's Israeli roots.
"My goal is to incorporate ingredients, styles and concepts that make up who I am," he said.
The writing on the menu is intentionally vague, in order to maintain an element of surprise, Brick said. He plans to explain each dish to the diners over the course of the meal. Each course has its core ingredients listed, but nothing else.
The fourth course, on the menu as "Tomato, ricotta, spinach," is a ravioli dish, he said.
The restaurant has two seatings, at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and each has a maximum of 60 seats. Reservations can be made and the $65 meal must be paid in advance to reserve a seat. The deadline to reserve is Sunday, May 14.
Brick plans to attend the University of Pittsburgh in the fall to study business, with the goal of opening his own restaurant group. He hopes to be able to keep up his cooking skills by finding a job at an area restaurant.