Jonathon Sawyer has no indoor voice. He speaks as loudly as he lives, and he lives like every day is his last. He's obsessed with ingredients; ingredients he's cooking now, ingredients he can't wait to cook with tomorrow at his Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland. Sawyer's a madman with mad talents, which explains why Restaurant Hospitality named him a Rising Star a few years back and Food & Wine named him to its list of the Top 10 Best New Chefs in America this year. He's cooked with Charlie Palmer in New York City and with Iron Chef Michael Symon, both in New York and Cleveland. And now at Greenhouse Tavern, Ohio's first certified green restaurant, he's creating amazing farm-to-table foods with a French-American accent. It's no wonder Bon Appetit named Greenhouse Tavern to its 2010 list of the 10 Best New Restaurants in America.
That's quite a gang you have there.
That's my wife Amelia. She's holding our daughter Louisiana, who's two-and-a-half. Our boy, Catcher, is five and a bit camera shy. Potato is the big guy, a pitbull mix, and the little one is Vito, a pug.
What's with Amelia and the laptop?
I spend a lot of time at the restaurant, so she created a blog called Chef's Widow. She has quite a following online, which she juggles beautifully with the kids and dogs.
You've got books in the fridge.
Yeah, the pig book is LuLu's (Louisiana's nickname). She loves pigs, but not as much as me. Catcher loves the Kids Cookbook. Also in there are the Acorn House Cookbook and the Random House [Webster's Unabridged] Dictionary.
Is Catcher going to follow in his old man's footsteps?
Maybe, but I'd never push it. He really likes to cook and actually uses a real knife. I taught him how to dice and cut matchsticks. Both kids love tofu and we make tofu soup with ramen together.
What's with the Mickey Mouse doll?
I've been cooking at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival for the last few years. We've been able to build a great family vacation out of it each year.
Looks like you have some nice wines, too.
I do. We have a wine cellar in the basement. I was able to buy at an estate sale some great wines from the northern Rhone region, including some gems from Jean Louis Chave. I also have 85 cases of vinegar I'm aging in my basement. I'm a vinegar freak.
Speaking of Chave, everyone was amazed that you attended a Chave wine tasting in Aspen two hours before you were to cook for the Food & Wine Best New Chefs event.
What can I say? How could I pass that up?
And then at that event the dish you prepared was voted the best of all the 10 Food & Wine chefs being honored.
You're making me blush.
You must have been blushing when all the chefs who were cooking at Michael Symon's Lola for a recent Share Our Strength event came to Greenhouse Tavern for an after-party.
Yeah, it was crazy having people like Jonathan Waxman, Koren Grieveson, Mark Vetri, Ann Burrell, Michael Schwartz and other amazing chefs hanging out. I'm living a charmed life. I love what I do.