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What is your favorite part of being a restaurant owner in Asheville?
The best part of owning a restaurant in Asheville is the community of support and collaboration among other chefs and restaurant owners around the city. The restaurant industry is a competitive one, especially in a smaller city with such a large number of quality restaurants. While that fact is definitely not lost on any of us, the amount of help and information sharing and support I received from other restaurant owners around Asheville may be the single biggest reason Sawhorse was able to open. There’s an incredible amount of opportunity to collaborate on events and special dinners with other chefs and cooks around the city, and so many people are open about sharing leads on sourcing great local ingredients.
What is the background of your restaurant’s name?
The name Sawhorse is inspired by my family’s history at our cabin in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. Part of the landscape at the cabin was always a generations-old sawhorse, holding up anything from piles of lumber and tools to canoes or kayaks. The sawhorse itself has hundreds of little cut marks and paint splatters from several generations of projects that various family members have worked on over most of the past 100 years. I was back up north visiting a couple years back and doing some brainstorming about the restaurant, and it struck me one day that the sawhorse was a perfect representation of necessity, simplicity, rusticity, and family history all in one. It was a total light bulb moment and really seemed like a beautiful and perfectly succinct way to capture the idea and the vibe of the restaurant.
What ingredient could you not live without?
The one ingredient I could never live without is maple syrup, without question. I’ve been obsessed with the flavor and complexity of maple syrup for years, and feel like at this point in my career I would have a hard time balancing flavors without adding maple to almost everything! I’ve come to realize recently that the entire restaurant project may really just be an excuse for me to use maple syrup all the time on everything I can. We have a pretty extensive maple collection from all over the northeastern US and eastern Canada, and we order direct from a sugar house called Black Rooster Maple in northern NY. We work with Green Mountain Maple to get Vermont maple syrup to Sawhorse as well. We have lots of plans for maple-themed dinners, tastings, and maple events during our first year. Also I’m really hoping we have a good snow or two this winter so we can have a big maple snow party!
What is your favorite dish on your menu?
My favorite dish on our menu may actually be our pancakes. I feel like as the owner of this business I should maybe use this opportunity to promote one of our more complex and creative dishes, but I absolutely love our pancakes. Aside from being the purest vessel for good maple syrup, I worked on our pancake recipe for an entire year before the restaurant opened, and feel like they are really something special. We even make our own butter specifically to melt on top. As a restaurant we really try to put a lot of love and attention into doing the simple things right, and our pancakes are a perfect representation of that ideal.
What is your favorite dish from a fellow AIR restaurant’s menu?
My favorite dish from another AIR-member’s restaurant is definitely the scallop quenelle from Vivian. It’s perfect, classic, simple, and beautifully executed every time.
Why did you choose Asheville to open your restaurant?
Sawhorse opened in Asheville for the simple reason that this is my home and I love this town. It wasn’t so much that I chose Asheville to open a restaurant, my wife Nora and I chose Asheville eight years ago to live in and to become a part of, and eventually that lead to the restaurant opening here as a by-product. I think it would be an incredibly challenging venture to move to a new place and decide to open a restaurant, and I couldn’t imagine bringing a level of passion and dedication to an unfamiliar location without having any background. I also really wanted to support our community and to feed the people I live around.
What is your favorite chef’s tool and why?
My favorite chef’s tool is my basting spoon, and more than any of my knives or other tools, its the one thing I’d be super upset if I lost. It’s a wide, flat spoon that I’ve been using for years, and was given to me by a cook I worked with in Chicago. The amount of flavor and texture you can add to anything you’re cooking, meat or vegetable, by basting with butter and aromatics, or glazing with a sauce, or anything else, can make the difference between something good and something amazing. Its also a really handy size and shape for plating. Something about the amount of love and attention you give to a piece of food while basting feels deeply meaningful to me.