q & a with chef jonathon sawyer

After working at several well-respected restaurants, including Michael Symon’s Lolita and Parea, Kitchen 22 and The Biltmore, Chef Jonathon Sawyer, a Cleveland native, has decided to open up his own place, Gastropub, the first nationally certified green restaurant in Ohio. While he is in the process of securing a location and hammering out the details, you can find him at Bar Cento, which will be adjacent to Bier Market in Ohio City this October, where he will be the partner/chef. According to Sawyer, the menu will be rustic featuring modern & traditional brick oven pizza’s as well as entree selections. Cento will also offer ‘cento vino’ (100 wines) to accompany each dish.

1. The top 5 spices that are a must in every kitchen:
black pepper, sea salt, crushed red chili flake, whole nutmeg,
anchovies (I know this isn’t a spice but I use it like it is one)

2. What is your favorite and least favorite thing to make:
My favorite thing to make is pasta dough. It is very therapeutic which I need every now and then in the kitchen. My least favorite thing to make is anything partially hydrogenised containing high fructose corn syrup or involving a microwave.

3. If you could cook for one person, real or dead, who would it be:
Winston Churchill. He was a man of passion; I admire passion.

4. You’re having a dinner party, what are the top 5 songs on your play list:
Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah
Clap Your Hands & Say Yeah – Skin on My Yellow Teeth

The Darkness – love what you’ve done with your hair
David Bowie – Oh! You Pretty Things
Blind Melon – Mother

5. Favorite restaurant in Cleveland:
Considering Symon is one of my best friends…Lola

6. What restaurant do you miss:
I miss Franny’s in Brooklyn horribly. Michelin trained chef settles down with wife to have a family and opens rustic style pizza joint on Flatbush Ave. My wife, son and I lived a block away and spent a good portion of our income there.

7. What is your favorite thing about Cleveland and what drives you nuts:
My favorite thing about Cleveland is the Cuyahoga National Valley Park and the produce and proteins that are produced in it. What makes me crazy is local chefs that source there ingredients from Holland, Japan, or California when we have everything needed right here in our city.

8. Most famous person you have cooked for:
The most famous person that I have ever cooked for would have to be Tom Hanks. My favorite famous person to cook for is most definitely Jimmy Fallon. He is hilarious and way fun to hang out with and rock out karaoke after a long night in the kitchen.

9. Most unusual food you have ever tried:
100-year-old egg, chicken sashimi, raw octopus, bear meat and raw milk two-year-old cave aged butter

10. If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing:
I would probably be a farmer or forger or a barfly in New Orleans.

11. What hidden café/restaurant have Clevelanders yet to discover:
2182 Bistro in Brecksville

12. Can Cleveland ever be in the same league as Chicago and NYC in terms of culinary offerings? What do we have to do to change this perception and be on that level?
I don’t think you can compare the culinary landscapes to each other. There are too many factors that don’t match up i.e pedestrian vs. commuter, sheer size of cities, average income, industry, etc…

I would hope that Cleveland would cultivate its own narrative thread similar to that of Napa Valley or the Pacific Northwest where ingredient worship is more important that the man behind the dish.
For Cleveland to become known for its gastronomy, the people need to realize and embrace the greatness of our city. Although Cleveland is not as large as some other culinary greats, we do have the resources at our fingertips to make amazing food and cuisine. We just need to utilize them. Since moving back from NYC, I have unearthed more local and indigenous ingredients than I could have ever expected to find in Cleveland. The perception that needs to be changed is that these bigger cities are better than Cleveland. Frankly that’s not true. Cleveland has the potential and has already reached its own level of culinary greatness. We just need to look locally for what the future of our culinary landscape should and will be.

I love that answer – thanks, chef!


  1. George Nemeth
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Gotta tell you, Michelle, I love this series. I particularly like the “What hidden café/restaurant have Clevelanders yet to discover” question. Keep up the good work!

  2. michelle v
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    wow, really appreciate that. thank you.

  3. misike1@sbcglobal.net
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    love the local food reference the next big wave is to help develop local farmers supply line into restaurants and institutional kitchens to expand the volume of local food consumed locally.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted March 19, 2008 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    2182 is a pretentious place. Extremely ostentatious for the knowledge and excellence they certainly don’t have. Don’t waste your time or money- the owners certanly don’t deserve either of mine. It’s certainly NOT a hidden gem in Cleveland.

  5. yo mama
    Posted July 23, 2009 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Disgruntled former employee?

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