New York’s loss proved to be Cleveland’s gain as Chef Jonathan Sawyer settled there after several years of cooking in some of Manhattan’s best kitchens. Behind the burner at The Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland since 2009, Sawyer has become a driving force in the local food movement in Ohio and his cooking and commitment have helped The Forest City claim its place on the culinary map. Chef Sawyer takes his turn at our Valentine’s Day OpenTable R.Q., or Romantic Quotient, Test, telling us why you won’t find tiger paw on the menu — but you will find grower Champagne.
What are your thoughts on food and drink acting as aphrodisiacs?
I definitely think that food and drink can bring people together for the greater good of romance. I don’t believe eating a tiger paw makes you strong for days, if you will. It’s really a combination of things, from ingredients to everything else — talking together and eating together.
Aside from aphrodisiacs, what do you think of when you think of sexy foods?
I think a lot of people want to associate luxury with dishes being sexy, but I think almost contrary to that. You don’t want to fill up on starches and butter. There are foods, though, that are luxurious that I think of as sensual which are lighter — asparagus, oysters, and almonds, for example, and prepared in a lighter style. We want people to walk out and be satiated, but not too full to enjoy the rest of the night.
Have you ever wooed a woman with a particular dish?
I’ve been married for a while, but one of my wife’s quotes is that she fell in love with me for my deboned crispy roast chicken that I used to do at Kitchen 22 with Charlie Palmer. It was a revelatory experience for her because she said, “If this guy can cook chicken like this, imagine what else he can do!” It’s a simple dish, but if you source and execute it properly, then it’s more than the sum of its ingredients.
Do you have a dish or food you might recommend to diners seeking to set the mood?