Interview: Sean O’Donnell

I first met Sean O’Donnell (right) when he was working at Aunt Rosie’s with our pal Chef Paul Vroman (formerly of Brick N’ Motor) in Rochester, NY. Paul introduced me to Sean as a young guy who was just getting into the restaurant industry and was a sponge, trying to learn everything he could. He was right, and anytime I ran into Sean at an event, I enjoyed talking to him about something exciting going on in Rochester or Buffalo. You could tell he had a genuine desire to learn everything he could about food and embraced it in a fun, non-cynical way. As Buffalo Eats slowed down and he got into his career in Rochester, we saw less of each other but I followed along his various food experiments via social media and ultimately became a huge fan of his video series Flour City Foodcore that he films with videographer Alex Freeman.

If you’ve never watched an episode, Flour City Foodcore is a video series (and occasional pop-up) that features recipes, Rochester restaurants and general food nerd stuff. They are currently on their second season and I can’t recommend it enough. There is a certain quirkiness behind each video that I really enjoy and the video quality is impressive. Start with their most recent episode, The South Clinton Project (below) which features the wide diversity of cuisines on South Clinton Ave and go from there.

When did you get into the restaurant industry?

Sean: I got into the industry five years ago. I was fresh out of college, looking for a full time teaching gig when I got a part time job slinging pizzas and Chicken French. It just kind of clicked, and about six months later I dropped the teaching thing and focused on cooking full time.

How did the idea for Flour City Foodcore come to be? Do you have any plans for the future or things you’d like to do with the series?

Sean: Flour City Foodcore was a food blog I tried to start eight or nine years ago with little success, but I kept using the hashtag. My friend Alex Freeman was just getting into professional videography around the time I started to take cooking seriously. He filmed a dinner I cooked for a bunch of friends and that became our first episode. Now on our second, season Alex and I just released our first longer documentary style piece on a culinary neighborhood of Rochester (watch above) where none of the restaurants have social media. We plan to keep putting out episodes and doing a few more pop-ups.

Right now, where are some of your favorite places to eat and drink in Rochester?

SeanSkylark Lounge is my go to for both: great beers and the most consistently good food in the city offering up a meatball-based menu. I like Monroe Kabob for their chicken Makhani/fresh naan wraps and hot grab and go faire. Marty’s on Park has really cool boozy brunch and some of the best brisket in the city.

Where should someone go when they visit Rochester for a proper experience?

Sean: The Rochester Public Market is a really cool experience. The interior is produce driven: both local and commercial resellers. The exterior is restaurants, bakeries, and food stalls. Around dinner time there’s a lot of really good restaurants that transform the market into a completely different place.

We’d like to thank Sean for talking to us and for keeping up the great work with Flour City Foodcore (along with his partner Alex). If you’d like to try Sean’s food, you can wait for the next pop up or you can find him at Next Door by Wegmans where he’s working with Chef Paul Vroman again.