Dear Batter Up friends, meet Joe Sparatta, chef/owner of Heritage restaurant, and his lovely wife Emilia!
Joe was first brought to my attention by Larkin Garbee (week 5 cake recipient). This is what she wrote:
“Joe Sparatta…is the owner and chef [at Heritage] and is doing a guest chef series where he opens up on a Monday night each month for up and coming chefs to be able to practice their food on an audience to see if they want to start their own restaurant. He is also a big connector and collaborator in the food scene that is changing the dynamic of restaurant owners so that they are joining together to leverage their resources rather than viewing one another as competition.”
I absolutely love this guest chef idea. I love that he is paying it forward and creating opportunities for those coming behind him to have a voice and show their skills. The creative process for a chef is very much like the creative process for a designer. (That’s me!) And working for a restaurant is very much like working for a design firm. You can work tirelessly to create something deliciously interesting—even brilliant—but at the end of the day it’s someone above you who ultimately gets the accolades. You might be credited internally, but it’s just not the same. On the flip side, while working for someone else you often don’t get a chance to do what you’re itching to do because you have to execute what someone above you wants. I’ve been there—in both situations. So when I heard that Joe opens up his kitchen once a month and lets one of these rising stars take the reigns and get their due credit, I jumped at the chance to honor him with a cake.
The Guest Chef Takeover Series kicked off last month and runs for six consecutive months. Here’s the line-up:
Randal Doetzer, Executive Chef, Julep’s New Southern Cuisine
Bryan McClure, Chef de Cuisine, Pasture
Mike Braune, Executive Chef, Secco Wine Bar
Bill Foster, Cook, Heritage; Former Chef/Owner Ejay Rin
Mike Yager Former Sous Chef, Glass Haus Kitchen
Time Bereika, Executive Chef, Mosaic Catering
The chefs coordinate with Joe ahead of time on their menus. In fact, when I showed up on Sunday afternoon to deliver the cake, he was in the middle of a meeting with Bryan McClure of Pasture to finalize the menu for the March dinner. Heritage foots the bill for all of the food costs and charges $45/person for the four-course meal. The goal is simply to break even. The night is not meant to be a money maker—it’s simply a night for a bunch of stellar chefs to get together and support each other. You see, the Heritage kitchen staff gets the night off. All of the guest chefs act as supporting line cooks for chef that’s being featured that night. Joe said that he gets on the line too and is just another cook himself on those nights. He says he loves it.
If you’re interested in attending any of these guest chef dinners, you’d better call ahead for reservations. You’re not going to be able to just walk in. For more information, check out the Heritage website.
And now for this week’s cake! Joe got a Bourbon Cake with Caramel Icing. This recipe came from the blog Call Me PMC and you can find the recipe here. This may have been the most nerve wracking delivery I’ve had yet. You see, Joe was pretty much born in a kitchen. Growing up with a chef father and a baker mother in New Jersey, Joe took to kitchen life early—working his way through an impressive list of northern New Jersey and New York City restaurants. Having worked with/for chefs like David Bouley, Eric Ripert, and Scott Anderson, the man knows a thing or two about food. To make matters worse, he’s also pastry chef. Then there’s me. Just eight months ago I thought putting fresh chopped mint in my icing was a good idea. (For those of you who have been with me for the long haul think Week 2—the chocolate salad incident.) My brother took the test cake into his office and it got rave reviews, but that means nothing when you’re up in front of someone of Joe’s caliber. *facepalm* I hope it was ok.