All posts by Michael L. Jones

Profile: Volare Italian Ristorante 2.0

[Originally Published in the Winter 2017 issue of Food & Dining Magazine.]

There are certain anniversaries that inspire self-examination and transformation. For most people these benchmarks tend to come in five year increments, but not for Executive Chef Joshua Moore of Volare Italian Ristorante at 2300 Frankfort Avenue. Instead of making changes on his restaurant’s 10th anniversary or waiting for its 15th, Moore opted to remodel the restaurant and make menu changes on its 13th anniversary. Continue reading Profile: Volare Italian Ristorante 2.0

Profile: Seafood Lady

[Originally published in the Fall 2017 issue of Food & Dining Magazine]

Nichelle Thurston never set out to become the Seafood Lady. In fact, she was close to graduating from Ivy Tech with a nursing degree when it all started. In 2015, Thurston prepared a seafood feast for her husband and three children. Even then she had a habit of cooking for 30 when she only needed food for five. Her family was so used to it that they stopped using plates, preferring to eat straight from the serving dishes. Continue reading Profile: Seafood Lady

Profile: Pho Ba Luu

Saigon Memories

Pho Ba Luu owners Jessica Mach and Stewart Davis bring Saigon street food to NuLu with a little touch of motherly love
Banh mi sandwich with house-made pâté and house-baked French baguette.
Banh mi sandwich with house-made pâté and house-baked French baguette.

Saigon and Louisville are 9,000 miles apart, but Jessica Mach has found a way to merge the two cities. In July, she and partner Stewart Davis opened Pho Ba Luu at 1019 E. Main St., on the edge of the Nulu and Butchertown neighborhoods. Pho Ba Luu’s menu is built around banh mi sandwiches and pho, a combination of broth, rice noodles (“bánh phï”), herbs and meat. Mach refers to this as “Vietnamese comfort food,” and being around it every day makes her feel Louisville is a little closer to her homeland. Continue reading Profile: Pho Ba Luu

Along the Urban Bourbon Trail— Proof on Main

Since it first opened in 2006, the 21C Museum Hotel Louisville has twice been named the Top Hotel in the U.S. by the readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine. That is because it is more than a place to eat and sleep – it is a bona fide cultural institution. The 21C broadens public access to contemporary art with its rotating collection of paintings, sculptures, photos and video installations. That same creative spirit extends to Proof on Main, the hotel’s celebrated restaurant. This is especially apparent in the way the bartenders and cooks at Proof on Main use Kentucky’s most popular export: Bourbon. Continue reading Along the Urban Bourbon Trail— Proof on Main

River House Restaurant and Raw Bar — A dream deferred

We live in a microwave world where most people expect to get what they want immediately. But Chef John Varanese is proof that a little delayed gratification can be just as sweet. Varanese fell in love 15 years ago, not with a person but with a location. It took 15 years for him to get what he wanted, but in March the River House Restaurant and Raw Bar opened on the very spot that Varanese had coveted. That story, from love at first sight to grand opening, had enough twists and turns to fill a romance novel. Continue reading River House Restaurant and Raw Bar — A dream deferred

Chef Q&A: Chef Harold Baker at Gary’s on Spring

Chef Harold Baker has worked in top-notch kitchens since he was a 16-year-old dishwasher at the International Market Square in Minneapolis. The Louisville native’s past employers include the Piedmont Driving Club in Atlanta, Chateau Elan Winery and Resort in Braselton, Georgia, and, locally, the Galt House and the Westport General Store. Five years ago, the 50-year-old chef opened Gary’s on Spring, 204 S. Spring Street with his childhood friend Guy Sutcliffe. At Gary’s, Baker is still very much a hands-on chef. “I am in the kitchen every day the restaurant is open,” he said. “The sauté line is set up so that 70 percent of the dishes flow through me. I set the speed and rhythm of the line. It’s hardcore, but that’s the only way I know how to work.”
Continue reading Chef Q&A: Chef Harold Baker at Gary’s on Spring

Chef Q&A: Adam Burress and Chase Mucerino

Adam Burress and Chase Mucerino have literally grown up together in the Louisville restaurant scene. The two chefs met in the culinary program at Sullivan University. Chef Jayson Llewellyn tapped them to work with him at both BLU Italian Grille in the Louisville Marriott Downtown and Jeff Ruby’s Louisville. Burress and Mucerino then ran the kitchen for Chef Anthony Lamas at Seviche before starting their first restaurant, Hammerheads, in 2010. A second restaurant, Game, followed in 2012. In October 2015, Burress and Mucerino opened their latest establishment, Migo. The two chefs sat down with Food & Dining to discuss their partnership, running three successful restaurants and the importance of getting away from it on occasion.

Continue reading Chef Q&A: Adam Burress and Chase Mucerino

Butchertown Grocery — A kitchen of his own

Three friends open the Butchertown Grocery, a culinary and entertainment venue where the community can get its collective groove on.

Quantum mechanics established long ago that one person could not exist in two places at the same time, but Chef Bobby Benjamin still had to learn this lesson the hard way. Benjamin was the executive chef at La Coop until the downtown restaurant closed in 2014. He then found himself working at Union Common in Nashville while his wife, Hannah, and their baby daughter, Copeland Pearl, stayed in Louisville. When Benjamin was in one city he often found himself thinking about what was going on in the other one. This dilemma was solved at the end of 2015 when Benjamin opened the Butchertown Grocery with attorney Jon Salomon and musician Patrick Hallahan, the drummer for My Morning Jacket. Continue reading Butchertown Grocery — A kitchen of his own

Chef Q&A — Logan Sandoval

[Originally published in the F&D Fall 2015 issue]

Logan Sandoval doesn’t look like your average chef. For one thing, he looks more like he should be running a Gold’s Gym than a kitchen. Sandoval began lifting weights in high school in Los Angeles, where he was on the wrestling team, and it is still a daily ritual. The other thing that stands out about him are his tattoos, which are a homage to his chosen profession. The main image is an octopus holding a chef’s knife and a lantern with “restaurant” written on it in Japanese. The Octopus is also wearing a traditional Japanese cooking bandana. Other images on his arms include a Chinese wok and two cocks fighting, one with a chef’s knife. The inside of his arm reads, “Cook free or die.”

Continue reading Chef Q&A — Logan Sandoval

Chef Q&A — Dustin Stagger

Dustin Staggers did not come into the restaurant business in the ordinary way. Staggers, 33, didn’t start out as a dishwasher and work his way to the top, as a lot of chefs do. Nor is he a culinary school grad. The first time the Tampa native stepped into a commercial kitchen was back in 2011 as the executive chef at the now-defunct 60 West Bistro & Martini Bar in St. Matthews. After a short stint at the Monkey Wrench, he opened the New Orleans-inspired Roux in the Highlands with his brother Kyle and fellow chef Griffin Paulin in October 2014. The Asian-influenced Rumplings came along the following month and, in May, the trio will open another restaurant, America. The Diner. Food & Dining sat down with Staggers to find out why he opened three restaurants in less than a year and how he finds the energy to operate them all. Continue reading Chef Q&A — Dustin Stagger