The Chef and The Cook is located at 7 Syracuse St. in Baldwinsville. (Photo by Sarah Hall)
At The Chef and The Cook, go ahead — order dessert first.
“We’re all grown adults,” said chef and co-owner Jason Jessmore. “All your dreams as a kid where you want to skip dinner and start with dessert? Now you can.”
It’s all part of the nontraditional approach to dining at The Chef and The Cook at 7 Syracuse St., which opened last month. The restaurant offers two menus centered around the same ingredients — a cook’s menu, which Jessmore said is a bit simpler and more “recognizable,” and a chef’s menu, which uses the ingredients in a more intricate manner.
“The concept is pretty much based on ingredients and chef-driven cuisine,” Jessmore said. “Everything is kind of a chef’s point of view — how we want to do it, how we want to explain it.”
The cook’s menu may offer more simplistic dishes — meat and potatoes or bear and clam steamers, said Jessmore, who has joined with chefs DeAnna and Mark Germano, to open The Chef and The Cook.
But he hopes those with simpler tastes may eventually branch out and try the selections on the chef’s menu.
“We’re taking a lot of items that we’re using on the cook menu and doing them on the chef’s menu just in a whole different light,” he said. “We have the seafood bar outside, which we’ll do some raw oysters, raw clams. But then, same idea, we’ll do a shrimp cocktail, but then we’ll turn around a different version of a shrimp cocktail. Just kind of build it on up.”
Jessmore said he calls it a “culinary carnival.”
“There’s going to be times at your table where there’s flames, or there’s smoke, or there’s maybe items floating over a plate,” he said. “Some dishes will be made at the table. Some dishes will be finished at the table.”
The goal is an intimate experience where diners get to try something new and the chefs get to enjoy what they’re making.
“The menu to us is a piece of paper. We can change it tomorrow,” Jessmore said. “As a chef there’s always a dish on a menu that you hate doing, and every time you get one you go, ‘Ugh.’ If we don’t want to make it we’re not making it… When you go out to a restaurant and you order a special you always feel like the passion is there, because you know the chef … that’s our entire menu. If we’re not liking something, if it’s not coming out how we want, it’s click click, delete, reprint… I’m tired of working. I’m just ready to have fun.”
Jessmore and the Germanos have nearly 50 years’ experience in the restaurant business between the three of them; Mark and DeAnna Germano run the Irish pub Cocaire in Elbridge and the Chef4Rent food truck, and Jessmore has opened and worked at several restaurants, including Mohegan Manor, Basta on the River and Rio de Siete. The trio of chefs teamed up for The Chef and The Cook to realize a dream.
“I proposed it to them as a kind of a joke, and then we had coffee and talked about it,” Jessmore said. “We have the ability to just push each other so far and so hard on different things and teaching each other daily… It’s much more than food.”
Jessmore said the fact that the restaurant is chef-owned gives them a lot more flexibility.
“You don’t have to put something on your menu because someone that doesn’t even work at the restaurant tells you to,” he said. “We don’t have a secret owner. We don’t have endless money in the bank, it’s all us.”
That will trickle down to the culture in the kitchen, he said.
“It’s going to be close-knit. We actually hired a lot for personality more than experience,” he said. “Someone with a great attitude could be very successful here. Somebody that has 30 years experience and was miserable isn’t going to last long. So we sacrificed a little bit of additional knowledge that we have to train people on, but the overall experience of how things get done and the vibe here and the culture will be good.”
Jessmore said the restaurant had to be at 7 Syracuse St. in Baldwinsville.
“This location, I’ve been in love with for about seven years now,” he said. “[Baldwinsville] is my favorite place to work—no other place I’d rather be. There’s so much to do. There’s so much to eat.”
He noted that The Chef and the Cook will join nearly 30 other restaurants in the Greater Baldwinsville area.
“It’s awesome,” he said.
And once the restaurant is up and running, Jessmore said the options are limitless.
“Once we get more situated, what can we do off a food truck?” he said, pointing to DeAnna Germano’s successful Chef-4Rent food truck venture. “You’re talking about doing food out in an orchard, doing food here, there. And it doesn’t have to be simplistic…We have the talent, and passion, and the pride, and the love for it… it’s insane what the future holds.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.