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The Daily Tar Heel

A conversation with Bill Smith, chef for a gut-busting week of Scottish food

Crook's Corner serves sweetbreads with browned butter and capers during the "No Guts No Glory" event. Photo courtesy of Bill Smith. 

Crook's Corner serves sweetbreads with browned butter and capers during the "No Guts No Glory" event. Photo courtesy of Bill Smith. 

Kidneys, livers and thymuses, oh my! This isn't a prop list for Sweeney Todd — it's what's on the menu during the "No Guts No Glory" event at Crook's Corner, which celebrates Scottish cuisine during the week of Robert Burns Night, a holiday celebrating the national poet of Scotland. Swerve writer Joseph Held talked to Crook's Corner chef Bill Smith about why they serve the gut-busting food and what exactly a sweetbread is. 

The Daily Tar Heel: What prompted you to have this event?

Bill Smith: Every winter, I wait for cold weather to do this because the food is so rich. Every winter, I try to have a week where we serve sweetbreads.

DTH: What are sweetbreads?

BS: It's the thymus from a calf.

DTH: Are they very popular?

BS: It has a huge constituency. There's a lot of people who love them. French restaurants have them a lot, but you don't see them that much in this country anymore. In the dead of winter, I usually have a week where (we) serve this, in some form or another. Last year I never got around to it, and I got so much grief from the public. So I decided that this year I would make a big deal about doing it for a whole week. We decided to aim it around Burns Night, which is a Scottish festival celebrating haggis and Robert Burns, the poet. Haggis is guts and so are sweetbreads. We know we have people who like kidneys, livers and sweetbreads. So, I got them all on the menu this week. 

DTH: Has the event been successful so far?

BS: People love it! They call and they come in. It's not for everybody, but I think it's delicious. A lot of people are squeamish about stuff like this. We have gotten phone calls all day, and people are really excited.

DTH: Are you a fan of Robert Burn's poetry?

BS: Well, I like Scotland, and I do like him. I had friends once who were of Scottish ancestry. This was years ago, we had a Burns Night dinner. We had a haggis, and we had Scotch meat and mashed turnips and read 'Ode to a Haggis.' I like when literature touches food. I can't quote anything to you, honestly, but I like to celebrate poetry whenever one can. 

DTH: What are you serving at the event?

BS: We have steak and kidney pie, liver mousse and chicken livers as a main course. We have sweetbreads; I did them with brown butter and capers because they arrived so late on Tuesday, I didn't have any time to make any complicated sauce, but they are delicious as they are. They are also serving things like Rob Roys and Russian ales on special at the bar to keep with the Scottish theme of the week. 


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