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Rustic Italian in Cleveland with Chef Jonathon Sawyer of Trentina

Rustic Italian in Cleveland with Chef Jonathon Sawyer of Trentina

Heritage - Sn 1/Ep 1Heritage - Sn 1/Ep 1

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In the first episode of HERITAGE, we take a journey to Cleveland, Ohio to meet James Beard Award-winning Chef Jonathon Sawyer. The menu he's developed at his restaurant, Trentina, embodies the Rustbelt Revival, combining Northern Italian cuisine with local Midwestern ingredients.

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- [Voiceover] Trentina mindfully represents me, and Amelia, and Italy and Cleveland, and the future of cuisine. This can be different than any restaurant we've ever done. We can have a food lab, we can forage on the grounds we can serve interesting proteins, we can age interesting things. We can redefine cuisine on a high level in Cleveland. - [Voiceover] You know I think when somebody finds what they're meant to do in this life, the person can become unstoppable. He's always been this way, I mean I've known him since I was sixteen. He's always had this energy and he has this drive unlike anything else. - There's no way to create energy or passion unless it's already there. One thing I love about taking the long way to work, you never know what you'll see on the side of the road. Beautiful chicken of the woods growing at the base of this oak tree on MLK Parkway. They call it chicken because before we understood what chemicals were inside of eggs, inside this mushroom they were like it smells like an egg. The similarities between fried egg and chicken of the woods are astounding, often times you'll pair the two together. Oh yes, unbelievable amount of weight to this. You know it's super fresh, there's still the appropriate amount of moisture in here. The way that I feel when I grab a mushroom out of the woods that I'm able to turn it, grill it and brush it or saute it, that only happens because I love what I do. You have to use wood in order to even call it grilling. Too hot and it's not gonna work, but too slow and it's not gonna work either. There's that happy medium with both hot and cold that has to happen in the relationship with the fire for it to make sense. I mean that smell, you can't fake that. No modern piece of technology can make it taste like this. That's astounding. Trentina for us was really, it was an opportunity to return to the dining room. And we are going to make these tables bespoke from a local artisan, and we are going to craft this artwork hand in hand with someone who inspires us. So we're rolling the table bread of Trentina here, the panne pizza, or the panne toscano. Nothing will smell or taste like this anywhere in the world. - You go to Trentina and he's coming out with course after course and he's talking about every single ingredient, and that is because he's so passionate about it. And it's authentic passion, it's obsessive. - Nothing is symmetrical, or even or perfect about this and that's exactly how we like it. I couldn't have planned more imperfections in this dough if I had tried. The old colloquialism of 'I never work a day in my life' is the honest to god truth over here. I love waking up, eating food, cooking food sourcing food, foraging, making people smile over food telling stories about food, it's my everything. For me it's so important to make sure that it's something that my kids will not be disappointed that I did, that's why we make the green decisions that we make. That's why we build the way that we build, that's why we source the way that we source. Anyone could be a forager, right? I mean everybody walks, everybody hikes everybody sees trees at some point. But at the moment that you take the time to look around and look inside of that tree, look at its bark, look at its nuts look at its leaves, and figure out what's eatable what can you use in your kitchen that starts to get it even more exciting. Keep your eyes peeled low, look for, - [Voiceover] Black trumpets! - Black trumpets. - Dad, what's that thing? What's that thing? - Actually, that's an oyster. Good eye, yeah smell that. It smells like an oyster. Can you put it in my little side pocket there? Look over there, right there. They call it shelf-like, so it's growing off like that. This one's been growing here for awhile, I can feel I'm cutting through some of the wood. We can dry it, we can pulverize it, we can coat something with it. Or we can pressure cook it and have a nice little mushroom stock. - [Voiceover] I see one right there. - Yeah, these are both Birch probably for us. These are great for broth. Oh that's a puffball, how many, is there a bigger one of this? - There's a million of them. - Oh wow, whoa. Those are all spores, so these are all mushroom spores. So that's how the puffball spreads its seed. - It's so soft. - It's still alive, and the wind will eventually take all that and blow it. It's pretty amazing nature, right? - Yes, yes it is. - Having the opportunity to walk through the woods with my kids, have them point out things and their wonderful eyesight, much better than mine is bonding us into a place where they're going to create memories forever. I'm terrified or excited to see where they're going to be when they're my age. Can you imagine what those children will know? It'll dwarf what I pretend to know, he'll forget more than I'll ever learn. In order to be reverential about your ingredients, you gotta understand where they come from. Really embracing the opportunity to get that food and get it with your own hands helps you appreciate it when you get in the kitchen. At the end of the day the most endearing compliment that our customers can feel is that somebody cooked this with their hands. Food is storytelling. When was the last time I tasted this? When was the last time this moment happened for me? We love the idea of taste memory as an opportunity to transport you back to something you want to feel again. And when it hits the table, the opportunity to tell the story and tell the rest of how that narrative come together is there. That's our hope to express the plate to a place where you wanna know more. Someone whose passion is so singular, in one thing and doing it perfect is rare. When you find that garlic farmer, who has 13 different varieties, saves the best to plant for next year as opposed for sales, you know you've found something that nobody can touch. I mean it's indescribable what's happening in this room. Every time I come in here I feel like we are in the garlic spirit chest. Single origin, organic, farmed with passion blood, tears and peace, you know there's so much going on in this room than just a component to a dish. Let's taste some Bogatar, let's get some hot hot heat. - Okay, you want the hot stuff, don't you? - [Voiceover] Yeah. - [Voiceover] So Bogatar, this is the one that is hot on the tail end, cheers. - Wow, that is amazing. I feel like I'm hallucinating now. I cut off a huge hunk, he cut - I only gave you half of mine. My voice is even going up. - [Voiceover] My spirit animal can feel it. - [Voiceover] It started out as a little hobby, just growing it in the garden for ourselves. Both sets of Chris' grandparents came over on a boat from Italy so every time they came up they thought they needed some more garlic to take home. So we kept planting more for them, and then the rest is history. - Is that traditional for when you're ready for seeding? - What we're doing here is we're cutting the seed garlic and we save the biggest heads and we're going to split them apart into cloves these cloves we're going to plant in that field. - You're talking about picking the best heads of garlic, never take them to market, strictly put them back for seed. Beyond that, when you finally get to this one where you're like Fred and Chris say this is appropriate to let in our soil, you're aligning it with root down stem up. And no machine could ever do that. - We're getting exactly what we want, but it takes a lot more effort. - It's hard to even say farmer, like when I say those words about you guys it's almost like I'm doing a disservice to our relationship. It's more family, it's more, - You're always welcome here, we're family. - When you find the garlic farmer who gives you Bogatar nobody has seen before and its flavor profile is unlike anything you taste and that moment of the mundane becomes transcendental. I think when you just say the word rust belt, it's a rallying cry for everybody that's in the middle of the country. And we use it as an opportunity to embrace where we are now and where the future is going as opposed to dwell in the past. Take the positivity, take the energy of the young, take your passion and push your city forward. - Cleveland when we grew up in Cleveland, Cleveland was, it wasn't awesome. So we kind of made it our mission. - We've seen this wonderful kind of ground swell of change. Menus are changing, the way people eat is changing here. All these wonderful restaurants that have now opened up because of him. - Welcome to Restaurant Trentina, we'll be focusing on the Trento region of Northeastern Italy. In this region, you have a lot of Germanic heritage melting in with the Italian. We'll be bringing in Ohio farmers and Ohio purveyors of meats we'll be sourcing through them so a nice seasonal menu. - As in Trento, wood is really still the primary medium that's what I love about the region. Not just that my wife's from there and our family is from there. Trentina's story has to be personal. - Here on the board in front of you we have a couple of mushrooms that have been sourced here in Northeast Ohio. - But that's the beauty of having passion, inside of the walls of a wonderful restaurant. - I think he's so blessed that he found what he loves, it's food and cooking and it's his family and his kids and I think that just pushes him. - Life became so much easier once I finally found what I was good at, everything started to make sense. There's still hard work, there's still tears there's still blood. It's the exact same thing as finding passion you know you can't create passion, you have to have it. And then when you find it, you harness it. Ah, yeah every time I smell that I know mother nature is thanking me for something. We're gonna pray to the lords of leavening that we get some of that rise we're looking for. Every time I get nervous, I cross my fingers and I cheer for the leavening. So we're making this torte de patate. Probably the most storied dish of Trento. It's not measured fiscally, it's measured emotionally. Will we be a part of something that changes a generation in our city? Will our kids be proud of us in the future? Will we do the best that we can with what we're given? Yeah, we will. We make all of our decisions based on how we feel about the future.

Coming right up

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