The beautiful northern Michigan of his childhood first inspired Jon to cook. His passion for being creative with fresh, seasonal, local ingredients grew from a love of the outdoors, hunting, fishing, foraging, and studying the local agriculture of his hometown farming community. He nurtured this culinary creativity in his teens, which produced some pleasant surprises as well as misadventures (one Thanksgiving Day, for example, Jon locked up a local turkey in an oven on the self-cleaning cycle).
After high school, Jon moved his big appetite to the bigger city of Grand Rapids, where he attended Grand Rapids Community College as a culinary student. Here he gained knowledge of everything from cooking and baking to restaurant management. Upon graduation, Jon took his talents to the U.S. Virgin Islands,where he spent the next six years on a personal quest to prove himself professionally.
Though the bounty of fresh seafood and island fruit was worlds apart from his childhood staples, the inspiration to create fresh, local dishes with fresh, local ingredients was the same. Jon fell in love with island fare, spending many days during mango season on the beach, indulging in his now favorite ripe fruit on earth - the Julie Mango.
"It is the epitome of why I love to cook, with its deep, rich flavors and layers of subtlety, all occurring naturally," Jon said. "If I can recreate this throughout my original dishes, then I feel that I accomplished what I always set out to do."
Jon first made waves in the Caribbean at the former East End Café, serving up Italian cuisine with a creative twist. He used this opportunity as a springboard to many more, including opening his own catering company, Modern Sauté. Not only did the catering company soon become one of the largest in St. Thomas, it has developed into an exclusive business, catering to the rich and famous as well as to sailing regattas such as Rolex International. In addition to Modern Sauté, Jon launched a restaurant at the St. Thomas Yacht Club, a venture that put him exactly where he wanted to be—cooking fresh fish on the beach, with the dock where he just bought the fish in sight.
A few years ago, Jon followed his love for everything food (as well as a certain beach beauty he met on his favorite white sand beach) to the culinary capital that is Chicago. Heembraced his new surroundings with the same mantra—keep it fresh, keep it simple, keep it damn good. He has spent much of the past years developing different southern smoking and barbeque techniques. These days, Jon can be found anywhere from the heart of downtown Chicago to the vast cornfields of northern Wisconsin, testing recipes and ideas out on clients of Sub-Zero Refrigeration and Wolf Cooking Equipment.
Jon has spent his life setting high standards for himself, developing his talents to create dishes that nurture and inspire. He holds the equipment he uses in his culinary adventures to the same standards. When he found his first Epicurean® cutting board, he knew it was the right choice for him. On top of being the most durable board he's ever laid a knife to (a statement he put to the test one day by unsuccessfully attempting to light one on fire), it is also just plain beautiful. Jon has hauled the boards across the country countless times for use in all types of cooking situations. What impresses him most about Epicurean® boards is the fact that they clean brilliantly and are eco friendly.
"To me, there's nothing better than having a sexy enough board to put on display like a hardwood block, yet can be run through the dishwasher at 185 degrees," John said. "You can't match that anywhere - unless you get a free mango with it, of course." Back to Ambassadors