Jeremy Kittelson has worked for Justin Cucci's Edible Beats restaurant group for nearly four years, beginning at Root Down and working his way up to operations chef for the company. And now Cucci has named Kittelson as culinary director for all of the restaurants: Linger, Root Down, Ophelia's and the soon-to-open Vital Root on Tennyson Street.
Daniel Asher had been in the position for several years, but he's currently working on developing his own restaurant project outside the Edible Beats umbrella, so he won't be as involved with the group, but he'll continue to oversee sourcing, sustainability practices, new concept openings, and team and community education.
For Kittelson, the new role means more creative innovation, coaching, mentoring and supporting the overall teams in all of the kitchens. "I'll be guiding the back-of-the-house team and how we take care of our guests from that standpoint," he explains.Chef promotions often result in less time in the kitchen and more in the office, but Kittelson says he'll actually have more time for research, development and implementation of menus and culinary strategies. "There are people around me who can take on some of the more administrative tasks so that I can be more hands-on," he notes.
As proof, he points to the direction he wants to take the menu at Linger, with "more interactive, build-your-own" dishes that play off the restaurant's street-food themes.
Kittelson says he places equal importance on customers and co-workers. "We're not just focusing on the new concepts," he explains. "We don't forget the original customers who made our growth possible. And we need to watch out for the people who are working for us — creating the type of culture, making sure to honor our staff appropriately."
Cucci's restaurants have always focused on welcoming guests with alternative dietary goals and needs, and that will continue under Kittelson, as will continuing to innovate when it comes to sustainability. "My focus is just to build upon what we've already done," he adds.
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The Edible Beats team looks beyond composting as a method of reducing waste, trying to find uses for what many other restaurants consider trash. "We're looking at how we really walk the walk when it comes to sustainability," Kittelson says. That means finding ways to use the radish tops as well as the radishes, the lemon peels as well as the juice, even looking at using onion peels and tomato vines for their potential flavor impact on smoked foods.
Before coming to Root Down, Kittelson worked at Ambria, a promising restaurant on the 16th Street Mall that closed unexpectedly in 2012, as well as at the Westin Riverfront Resort in Beaver Creek and the Michelin-starred Blackbird in Chicago.
As for Asher's new project, he says he'll be able to reveal more details in two weeks or so.