I met Chef Chason while planning our Hoptinger St. Augustine Foodie Adventure. He’s creative, ambitious and loves the industry he’s becoming an influencer in. I’ll let him speak for himself…
me: So when did you know you wanted to be a chef?
Chef Chason: I grew up cooking w/my dad in the kitchen- he literally built the house around the kitchen. I always knew that’s what I wanted to do. The high school I chose to go to was starting an academy of hospitality… I went straight from there to culinary school & I have a bachelors in both culinary management and culinary arts.
me: Do you stay in touch with culinary school friends?
Chef Chason: It’s funny because my Art Institute of Jax graduating class was full of great people. Cali of Cali Marie Bakes, Matt Kepp, exec chef for V Pizza... it’s cool to see us all doing well out of culinary school. My friends are all in the industry – it keeps us sharp.
me: Give us a timeline… where have you worked from graduation to now?
Chef Chason: My first job in Jax was up in the River Club up in the Gate building. I moved to Pele’s then had an opportunity to work alongside pastry chef Michael Bump at Orsay. I absolutely love that place- they taught me so much and they really care about the dining experience. You really feel at home while you’re there. Then Hoptinger came along.
me: I guess it must have been pretty great to draw you away from a place you loved so much, Orsay…
Chef Chason: Hoptinger presented me with the opportunity of creativity. They originally asked me to just get the ideas flowing & help create a menu. I was consulting for them- I wasn’t going to leave Orsay. We had tastings with the owners and continued to improve the menu. We continue to do that even now. Right before they were getting ready to open Jax Beach, the owners said, “We’re not going to find anybody who is going to be as passionate with this menu as you are because you created it. We want you to run our kitchen.”
It was taking a giant leap but so far its been great. I’ve loved every minute of it.
me: That’s awesome! When I approached you with the idea of a Foodie Adventure, you took the idea and ran with it… I can’t wait to taste your menu on the 29th! What can we expect?
Chef Chason: Someone who wants multiple courses can expect that with us- that’s what I love doing. I’m starting with my favorite thing to cook… cheese curds. We do it in a 365* fryer so the cheese is melting. I’ve made so many of them and the fryer still burns me sometimes… it’s hard to perfect them. It’s still a challenge every time, that’s one reason I like them so much. In Wisconsin & Michigan, they eat them cold at room temperature- that’s why they “squeak”- but ours are like popcorn.
I’m closing the meal with my dessert that was featured in The Chef’s Canvas cookbook.
me: Tell me about being featured in a cookbook!!
Chef Chason: Who wouldn’t want to be in a freakin cookbook?! It was awesome! Kari Sanchez sent over an email with a list of artwork- our goal was to choose a piece of artwork that inspired us and create a dish out of it. Two paintings spoke to me and I was having a hard time deciding which to choose. I was in Georgia with family so I shared my ideas with my Aunt and she immediately said The Pear… so that’s what I chose!
Being creative in the moment is easy. Creating a recipe that turns out consistently every time is the challenge of writing for a cookbook. I really enjoyed it.
me: I know that’s not on Hoptinger’s menu… I can’t wait to try it June 29! Ok- before we wrap up, tell me some favorites of yours. If you’re not eating at Hoptinger… 13 Gypsies every time.
Thanks, Chef Chason, for your time! We look forward to getting to know you more at the June St. Augustine Foodie Adventure dinner! Tickets here: June 2016 St Augustine Foodie Adventure