You may have already savored some of Cleveland-based Chef Jonathan Sawyer’s succulent creations on the winter menu at the Chef’s Club, but this month you can see the man in action in the kitchen at the St. Regis hot spot.
Sawyer, the Food & Wine magazine “Best New Chef,” 2013 James Beard Award nominee and owner of Ohio’s Greenhouse Tavern, is one of three renowned chefs coming to the Chef’s Club in coming weeks.
Sawyer has been spotlighted at the fine dining destination twice since it opened last summer, and he is among five “Best New Chef” honorees whose dishes have made up the winter menu at the St. Regis. His whole pig, rib steak and roasted winter squash are among the highlights of choices on an impossible-to-go-wrong menu.
He will cook in-person at the Chef’s Club March 28, 29 and 30 — also offering a cooking class on his final day.
Sawyer says leaving his home kitchen, and coming to Aspen to meet foodies at the Chef’s Club has been an easy transition.
“It’s natural for me to cook and talk to customers about cooking and food,” Sawyer says. “I spend a lot of time writing recipes and thinking about recipes, so I love talking about recipes.”
Sawyer is joined this month by two Frenchmen: Chef Cyril Lignac (March 6, 8, 9) from Quinzième, Le Chardenoux and Le Chardenoux des Prés in Paris; and Chef Mathiew Pacaud (March 14, 16) of the Michelin three star restaurant L‘Ambroisie in Paris.
Lignac will prepare a five-course menu, providing a taste of the award-winning French cuisine that’s won him a Michelin star and the title of GQ’s “Chef of the Year.” He’s bringing his pastry chef and culinary team to assist.
Pacaud’s two-night stand will feature the sophisticated, seasonal dishes that have made L‘Ambroisie a mainstay of haute cuisine in the City of Light, as he hosts two dinners.
In its first year, the Chef’s Club has brought the pages of Food & Wine magazine to life in Aspen, showcasing its lineup of Best New Chefs and other culinary masters of the universe. We used to have to wait until the annual Food & Wine Classic for such experiences, but no longer.
Sawyer, who last month was nominated for a James Beard Award as the best chef in the Great Lakes region, says he doesn’t dwell too much on the honors he continues to rack up. He keeps himself focused on developing new dishes, and keeping his restaurants ideas and food fresh. But, as a celebrity chef, he’s careful to focus more on being a chef than a celebrity.
“Being named ‘Best New Chef’ just opened up a whole new set of customers for us,” Sawyer says.
That’s not to say he isn’t competitive. When he was first invited to the Chef’s Club, Sawyer researched years of menus and customer data from the St. Regis. He looked at what the most popular dishes and ingredients were from guest orders there, and catered his dishes to those tastes.
It’s Sawyer’s third visit to the Chef’s Club, and he’s proud to say he’s cultivated some regular customers.
“I saw some people come back from time one to time two, so I hope to see more repeats come back,” he says.
And while Paris is synonymous with fine dining, Sawyer’s Cleveland may seem like a culinary backwater to the uninitiated. Being in the national spotlight, he says, is an opportunity to spread the buzz on the rarely hailed culinary scene of his native Cleveland.
“A lot of people think about Cleveland in a negative way,” he says. “It’s not Chicago and it’s not New York. But it’s closer to Portland than anywhere else.”
Among its assets, he notes, is the Chef’s Garden, a specialty farmer of heirloom vegetables, herbs, micro greens and edible flowers that provide their crops to the top chefs and restaurants across the U.S. — including the Chef’s Club.
“With or without me, Chef’s Club is already representing Cleveland,” says Sawyer.