Each month, we ask one of Pittsburgh's chefs: What do you do and how do you eat when you're out of the kitchen?


Dennis Marron  Chef/Owner,  Merchant Oyster Co,  http://www.merchantpgh.com
Live: Lawrenceville •  Work: Lawrenceville •  How Long: Six Months

How long have you worked in your position?
6 months for my latest project…or my whole life pending on what you consider a chef.

 

What do you cook at home?
I love to cook at home and usually keep it simple. My go to is a whole roasted chicken, I love the way it makes the house smell…like home.

When you’re out of the kitchen, where do you like to dine?
I try and visit all the locally owned restaurants and spread the love to all my peers like Smallman Galley, Umami, Morcilla, The Vandal and Station.  And since I am not full time in a restaurant now and working from home, I eat every almost every lunch from Deli on Butler.

Where do you go for a drink?
My girlfriend (Jessica Lewis) is a chef/owner as well (Carota Cafe) and always working I usually go see her at Smallman Galley…and they have the best local/craft beer list in the city! When we do have time off together we love the negronis at Grapperia and the micheladas at Round Corner Cantina.

Where do you spend your days off?
Day off…what is a day off. Trail running in Frick Park or hanging with my daughter.

What would you do if you had a weekend off and it wasn’t a holiday?
I’m heading to the beach.  There is a reason I’m opening up an oyster bar.  I love the shore.

What made you decide to be a chef?
I spent most of my young life (and old life) working in kitchens and restaurants and fell in love with the atmosphere, the food, the creativity and the hard work. For a young age, there was nothing I wanted more than to be a chef and own a restaurant.

What has you most excited at work right now?
The design and build out my new restaurant, Merchant Oyster Co.  I am having a great time going through the design process for the first time totally on my own.  I have opened restaurants prior (most notably in PGH The Commoner), but Merchant is my first foray into my own space.  It has been really interesting going through the steps to create the space; it’s like writing a movie. You cast the people, the sets, the look/feel to bring together a project that you hope people love.

*** Want to check out a preview of Chef Marron’s new concept, Merchant?  He’s hosting a farm dinner at Root & Heart Farms next Sunday featuring an all you can eat pig roast, clam chowder and roasted oysters alongside local brews.  Tickets and more details can be found here! ***

Bethany Zozula  Executive Chef,  Whitfield / Ace Hotel ,  http://www.whitfieldpgh.com
Live: Greensburg •  Work: East Liberty • 

 

How long have you worked in your position? Since October 2015, before we had a kitchen. Whitfield & the hotel opened in December of last year. Prior to the hotel, I was the sous chef at Eleven in the Strip.

What do you cook at home? If I’m just cooking for myself, I usually make beans and rice. I love to eat my yard if it’s the season and cook at home as much as possible.

When you’re out of the kitchen, where do you like to dine? I don’t make it out very often. If I get a chance, I like going to Butterjoint and Noodle Head. Recently I’ve been heading around the corner to Muddy Waters.

Where do you go for a drink? If I’m staying in town, I’ll go to Take a Break or Kelly’s. If I’m in Greensburg my spot is Mr. Toads but ideally it’s my porch with some fancy whiskey.

Where do you spend your days off? I’m usually at my house working in the garden or just relaxing with my dog and two cats.

What would you do if you had a weekend off and it wasn’t a holiday?  I’d probably spend it in the woods. Spend some time in rivers and streams. I really love plants and rocks, and being able to hear the wind through the trees.

What made you decide to be a chef? I grew up loving to cook. It’s just something I’ve always done. I originally set out to be an artist and started cooking since it was easy to find work. As time went on, I realized how much I enjoyed it and how I could really excel at it.

What has you most excited at work right now? I love my team both at Ace & Whitfield. We’re all really excited to be here, and we’ve grown really close. We have each others’ backs, and that’s a great feeling.


Csilla Thackray  Hungarian Warrior Princess,  The Vandal ,  http://www.thevandalpgh.com/
Live: Lawrenceville •  Work: Lawrenceville •  How Long: 2 Years

What do you cook at home?
When I do have a chance to actually cook, I like to make a lot of soups and stews. But scrambled eggs with some veggies and toast is my go-to.

 

When you’re out of the kitchen, where do you like to dine?
Anywhere and everywhere. I like to oscillate between dining occasions, such as Cure or Legume, and more comforting meals, such as Pusadee’s Garden or Dish.

Where do you go for a drink?
Allegheny Wine Mixer or Butterjoint.

Where do you spend your days off?
I spend most of my time at the farm with my horse or at home with my cats.

What would you do if you had a weekend off and it wasn’t a holiday?
I would get a room at the lodge in Peek n’ Peak and spend the weekend skiing/warming up by the fire. We spent a large portion of my childhood skiing at that resort, so there is a lot of nostalgia there for me.

What made you decide to be a chef?
I definitely identify as a cook rather than a chef, but I think what made me want to cook was the memories that food evokes. Growing up in an Italian/Hungarian family, food was what literally brought everyone together. I think I just wanted to be able to create that for others…that sense of togetherness.

 


Becca Hegarty  Sous Chef,  Dinette ,  http://dinette-pgh.com
Live: East Liberty •  Work: Shadyside/East Liberty •  How Long: 3 years

What do you cook at home?

I don’t actually cook a lot at home, but I do bake a lot. I most recently baked some brown butter zucchini bread with a buttermilk glaze.

When you’re out of the kitchen, where do you like to dine?
Well, I never ever get tired of pizza, so I often find myself at Pizza Boat when I’m not working. Those guys and their pizza are fantastic. Also, Pho Van has on of my favorite vegetarian pho’s in the city.

 

Where do you go for a drink?
Lou’s Little Corner Bar, almost certainly. I also really love the Allegheny Wine Mixer; Sabbath Sundays are just the best!

 

Where do you spend your days off?
I spend my days off around the city with my dog, Pickle. We try to explore everywhere pups can go (pups can go to Lou’s!).

 

What would you do if you had a weekend off and it wasn’t a holiday?
I like to visit my family in Philadelphia  if I have a couple of days off. I like to see any and all new places..I also like to sleep.

 

What  made you decide to be a chef?
My grandmother was always an amazing baker and cook. I would help her mix and scoop everything whenever I could. I then worked for a women who owned the most perfect row-home breakfast restaurant in Lancaster,PA called Wish You Were Here; she really inspired me to go to pastry school. Short answer: two amazing, passionate women.

Andrew Gerson  Chef,  Brooklyn Brewery,  http://www,brooklynbrewery.com
Live: E. Williamsburg, Brooklyn •  Work: Williamsburg, Brooklyn • 

 

What do you cook at home?

Lately its been a lot of vegetables.  Recently Momofuku opened up Kaizen Trading Company near me which specializes in fermentations. I’ve been using their chickpeas, lentils and sweet potatoes experimenting with them in broths and soups. The results have been this rich, umami profile that’s really interesting.

When you’re out of the kitchen, where do you like to dine?

Mostly I seek out New American cuisine, places with a regional focus on ingredients.  In Pittsburgh you guys are killing it.  Justin at Cure is an idol.  Richard [DeShantz] from Butcher and the Rye also is doing incredible things from the space (like that insane wall of rye/bourbon) to the food.  Kate Romane (E2) is amazing, sourcing a ton of her product from her lady’s farm and making beautiful, rustic food.   It’s not enough just to source local though, shits got to be good.  And there are definitely people in Pittsburgh doing it well.  Outside of Pittsburgh, Underbelly (Houston), Vinegar Hill House (Brooklyn), and Humboldt and Jackson ( soon to open, Brooklyn) are all amazing.  At  Humboldt and Jackson,  we will be are doing a new dinner series coming up and we are really excited about that.

Where do you go for a drink?

I work at a brewery so I’m drinking alot of beer;  but also since its summer I’m drinking a lot of rosés and trying to embrace more ryes and whiskeys.  The Brewery has a amazing tasting room with beers that you can only find there, I definitely recommend anyone to check us out.  Torst (Brooklyn) is another great tasting room for beer.  In Pittsburgh, Lynn from Acacia is a friend who is doing unbelievable drinks in a great space.  In Nashville, The Patterson House’s cocktail program is unreal.  DC also has some hidden-ish solid cocktail lounges too.

Where do you spend your days off?

Cooking at home.  Its much different to cook for 2 or 3 than it is for 50, so on days off I like to experiment/play a bit with new flavors and ingredients.  And I would definitely be taking a walk with my lady, exploring the different neighborhoods in Brooklyn.  I also help out with a community farm so probably some time there too.

What would you do if you had a weekend off and it wasn’t a holiday?

Charleston, SC is a city that is not so much under the radar anymore but its beautiful with phenomenal food…Husk, Fig, Bin 152, Xiao Bao Biscuit.  I also might say…Pittsburgh.  I grew up in Philly and never spent anytime in Pittsburgh and its blown me away.  Its this great balance of an urban setting but surrounded by nature.  I’ve been hanging out with the guys from Wild Purveyors and its amazing to spend a morning foraging and then work with incredibly talented people like Justin (Cure) and Kate (E2).

What  made you decide to be a chef?

I grew up cooking for my family and it kinda just morphed from there (and it seemed like a great way to pick up ladies when I was younger).  I was working in the front of the house through college and after school, where I studied creative writing, I realized I wanted to cook.  I went to the French Culinary Institute and it just spiraled from there.   For me, cooking goes beyond just a meal; its a real interest in the local food system and how you can take something fresh/local and honor it by making it into something beautiful.

What is the Brooklyn Brewery MASH and why is a NY brewery so vested in communities outside their home base?

The brewery was founded by individuals who wanted to support their community. Breweries historically have been in the heart of their communities as a gathering place.  As a result our founders wanted to bring that tradition back, supporting everything from neighborhood artisans to artist creating a rich community experience.  The MASH is really a way to carry that set of ideals outside of Brooklyn to places already exemplifying that attitude and highlight them.  And its about collaboration, a chance to see how different places approach things like food, art and culture.  We learn just as much if not more from the MASH tour, bringing those ideas back to Brooklyn and expanding on them.   Collaboration seeds innovation and elevates a market rather than a pure competitive marketplace where you are seeing food/drink/community scenes decline.

 

 

 


Jamilka Borges  Chef,  Bar Marco,  http://www.barmarcopgh.com
Live: Bloomfield •  Work: Strip District •  How Long: 4 years

What kind of meals do you cook at home?
I rarely cook at home, unless I’m cooking for friends, and then it would be something simple; pasta or a roast.

When you’re out of the kitchen, where do you like to dine out?
Legume, Cure, Spoon and Dish. I go to places that I can seat by myself at the bar, have a great meal and talk to their staff.

Where do you go for a drink?
Usually to Butterjoint or to our other location Livermore in East Liberty. It’s hard to stay away.

How do you like to spend your days off? 

Meet up with friends, have dinner and catch up. It’s hard to stay close with friends that are not in the industry, so day off are  definitely  for relaxing time with friends.

What would you do if you had a whole weekend off and it wasn’t a holiday?  
Stay home? I’ll probably go somewhere close and eat…Maybe fly home (Puerto Rico) for a short  visit.
 
What made you decide to become a chef?
Growing up I used to watch my mom throw together a lot of unlikely ingredients, eventually I started inviting friends to come over and will cook for them. After finishing school, I decided to cook for a  living… and that was that. I’ve been pretty lucky  to work for people that I like and constantly learn from.
 

Richard DeShantz  Chef/Owner,  Meat & Potatoes, Butcher and the Rye ,  http://meatandpotatoespgh.com
Live: Downtown •  Work: Downtown •  How Long: 2006

What kind of meals do you cook at home? I mostly try to cook one pot meals. Comfort meals like a slow roasted pot roast or italian meat sauce; something unfussy.  It’s great to put everything in a pot and let it go then come back to an amazing meal at the end of the day.

When you’re out of the kitchen, where do you like to dine out? I like to go see my chef friends and support local establishments.  Spoon, Root 174, and Cantina are among my favorites.  They all are doing their own thing and doing it well.

Where do you go for a drink?  Anywhere with a laid back atmosphere (read: no clubs).  Relaxing spots.

How do you like to spend your days off?  I like to spend my days off with my English bulldog, Winston.  I’ll take him on a walk through Point State Park or just relax on the couch with him.

What would you do if you had a whole weekend off and it wasn’t a holiday?   I like to get in the car and travel to the next closest city and get away for the weekend.  There are so many chefs in cities like Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Baltimore that are doing amazing things, so its great to get out and experience them for inspiration.

What made you decide to become a chef? Bad SAT scores!  I was an art major and started working for my uncle at a restaurant.  I quickly discovered food was another way to express myself.  Plus, it was way too hard to be a starving artist when you’re surrounded by good food.


Matt Kemp  Executive Chef,  Fukuda,  http:// www.fukudapgh.com
Live: Northside •  Work: Bloomfield •  How Long: 6 Years

What kind of meals do you cook at home? At home I cook mostly vegetables with alot of  Japanese influence, exploring new flavors and techniques to bring to the restaurant.

When you’re out of the kitchen, where do you like to dine out? There have been a stellar line up of new places that have opened in the past few years.  One of my new favorites is Cure in Lawrenceville; they are killing it over there.  Another not so new favorite but none the less delicious is Toast in Bloomfield/Shadyside.

Where do you go for a drink?  That depends.  If it’s after a long night of work and I want something divey to drink beer and a cheap cocktail, its Sonny’s Tavern around the corner from Fukuda in Bloomfield.  If it’s a nice relaxing evening out, I head over to Allegheny Wine Mixer (AWM) and order up a glass of wine and decompress.  Plus those ladies there are great!

How do you like to spend your days off? Usually it involves my girlfriend and me strolling through the Strip District grabbing whatever fresh ingredients that look good that day and me cooking for us.

What would you do if you had a whole weekend off and it wasn’t a holiday?   Wait, is that really a thing?  I wouldn’t know what to do!  Between the restaurant and our newly launched food truck life has been too crazy for the past year to think of a whole weekend away from work.

What made you decide to become a chef?  It was the one thing I enjoyed and could see myself doing everyday and never getting sick of it.  The saying is true, you have to do something you love.