LAKE CITY - After 12 years of serving farm-to-table food near the Lake City Marina, Nosh Bar & Restaurant will close on June 30 and move to Winona.
Before opening in Lake City, Greg Jaworski said he was approached about moving to Winona. The chef and owner of Nosh had lost his lease in Wabasha and was looking to relocate.
" I had a few people reach out to me from Winona," Jaworski said. "Tried to get us to move there, instead of here. I wasn't ready to do that yet. I don't think Winona was ready yet."
Originally from Michigan, Jaworski hadn't cooked a meal until he on his own in college. Growing up with three older sisters and a mother who would hand pick produce from their family garden, Jaworski said he started to see all of the frozen, processed and canned goods he was cooking with and knew he had to make a change.
In addition to a love of made-from-scratch, locally sourced foods, Jaworski worked in restaurants while in college at Eastern Michigan University.
Instead of following the route of his father, an environmentalist, Jaworski decided to follow his passion and pursue a career in the restaurant business.
Jaworski left Eastern Michigan and returned to his hometown's college. After completing several courses there, he left for culinary school on the East Coast.
Jaworski said he takes the Italian approach to cooking: start with something awesome, then don't mess it up. He lets the ingredients speak for themselves, focused more on their opportunity to shine than on his as chef.
Jaworski is the complete opposite of the "rockstar chefs" portrayed on various cooking shows, something he says can do damage to young chefs. In Jaworski's words, sometimes cooking "sucks."
Jaworski doesn't have his vegetables prepped for him every day. He rejects the prototypical starchy, ironed white chef's jacket. And he certainly doesn't yell "Bam" like Emeril Lagasse.
"I'm not going to act like it's not hard as hell and challenging, and frustrating and demanding and never goes away," Jaworski said.
To become a cook, Jaworski said you need to be an "adrenaline junky." Cooking and running the restaurant isn't just a junky speed rush though. Jaworski said the power to make a couple's night with his Mediterranian cuisine keeps him coming back for more.
But Jaworski is constantly seeking a challenge, a reason why his menu changes daily, as marked at the bottom of each one. Patrons come back for the hanger steak, seafood paella, beet salad and garlic shrimp.
"I don't know if I'd be sitting here, talking to you, if it wasn't for supporting local agriculture," Jaworski said. "In Wabasha, that was huge. Farming community and those who support local foods really helped get the word out right away when we opened, which got the ball rolling."
When asked if residents in cities like Lake City, Wabasha, and Winona have an appetite or can sustain a fine dining experience like Nosh, Jaworski said he believes they do.
"We might've missed the mark when we opened here, came in a little too fancy schmancy is what I hear through the grapevine from the local community," Jaworski said about Lake City. "Come in a little more approachable, as value orientated as can be."
Jaworski elaborated on his food being labeled "fancy schmancy," talking about an encounter with a resident one night. The person didn't realize Jaworski owned the restaurant and asked him if he worked at Nosh and what he thought of the place.
"I was like, 'Well, you know, I'd like to think high end food, make everything from scratch bar,'" Jaworski said. "And he's like, 'I got a gift certificate there three years ago. I don't know.' So this man had a gift certificate - -a free meal-for three years, never walked through that door. You know what I mean? So I think it's marketing. I think we might've missed the mark here."
When Nosh Scratch Made Kitchen opens in Winona across from Merchants Bank in late August or early September, Jaworski said his principles won't change. Jaworski has worked all over the country, cooking in French, Mediterranean, Latin American and Spanish cuisine (Jaworski's favorite).
His advice to young chefs is to follow his trajectory, by working in as many places as possible, gleaning whatever they can from fellow cooks and chefs.
"Everybody has worked at other restaurants who have techniques you've never seen or recipes you've never tried," Jaworski said. "This hyper competitive nature really, I think, holds a lot of people back. First of all, it makes cooks want to become chefs right away. They want to use the title right away, which really bothers me ... . So slow down on using that word. And just slow down in general. You don't need to become the executive chef right away. Your going to find that it's really difficult to learn once you reach the top. Be a line cook. Listen to your sous. Listen to your executive chef."
And of course, let your ingredients shine.
Nosh in Lake City will close on June 30. Jaworski asks that interested diners call and make reservations to make sure they can accommodate everyone.