We all know what to expect from a chain restaurant steakhouse, whether it’s Sizzler or Ruth’s Chris: big beef, salad, potatoes. And the assurance that all the restaurants in the chain will be similar—every Sizzler has its salad bar and every Ruth’s Chris plates its steak on butter. A steakhouse kitchen usually needs a meat technician, not a chef. Fleming’s has restaurants in 28 states. But at Fleming’s Steakhouse and Wine Bar in Gateway, Chef Jeremiah Hester is separating from the herd.
What inspired you to make changes to Fleming’s menu?
We wanted to change the typical steak and potato idea of a steakhouse by including some chef’s creativity. More and more, guests are asking about the source of their food—they like local—and are looking for something different.
But you still have the standards on the menu?
Yes. We have a list called Chef’s Table of seven to 10 dishes that are unique to us. We wanted something unusual for a steakhouse, besides the same shrimp cocktail, mashed or baked potatoes, creamed spinach, wedge salad. So we change out the Chef’s Table menu every two months. (Ed note: Like Pepita Crusted Scallops with melted burrata, campari tomatoes and fig gastrique.)
What are some recent dishes featured on the Chef’s Table?
We have honey-garlic green beans and fried Szechuan cauliflower. Cauliflower is so great to work with because it’s neutral and marries with seasonings. We’ve done it sweet and sour style, buffalo-style—lots of ways.
How do you decide what to put on the Chef’s Table?
We try to work seasonally. This summer we made a strawberry salad, crab-corn chowder with blistered poblano salsa and peach cobbler. Now we’re serving Brussels sprouts with bacon jam. I like to go out to eat and see what other people are doing and wherever I am living I try to learn about the food.
What are some of the challenges of offering a changing, unique menu?
It’s harder to work with small and local suppliers. We’ve only been doing Chef’s Table for a few months, but we’re slowly working into that company-wide.
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