What’s it like working at Isabela compared to the other places you
have worked? This is every chef’s dream. When I came here to
meet the owners, I couldn’t believe the potential of this restaurant. The mix of great food, great service and a great view is really
a match made in heaven. Also, they allowed me to completely
design my own menu, which has been really great.
What changes has the restaurant made during your time at
Isabela? We have added our à la carte menu, [which] has a lower
price point and more of a mix-and-match feeling. I think this is the
reason we have seen such an increase in walk-in customers, [who
now make up] 30 percent of our business. We also have vegan,
vegetarian and gluten-free menus (available upon request).
We’ve always had younger people here, but [they were] mostly
young couples celebrating a birthday or anniversary. I notice now
that there are more young people coming in for everyday dining.
In addition, we offer [ 75] wines by the bottle, and [over half] are
$50 [or less]; I think that helps to make it more affordable for the
Where do you see your food on the culinary spectrum? I want to
follow trends but not set them. There is a place for tricks in food,
like molecular gastronomy, which is really fun — but not my focus.
I like to have some modern touches, but I always see traditional
food as my anchor. My focus is on combining flavors that complement each other and showing the ingredients for what they are.
What is one of your favorite ingredients? When I was living in the
Northwest, I fell in love with huckleberries. The mix of tartness
and sweetness is so refreshing. When in season, I have a dish on
my menu that is duck breast with huckleberries, and I just love it.
How did you feel about relocating to Pittsburgh after you had lived
and worked in several other cities? I’m originally from Connecticut. Before I came here, I had worked at Susanna Foo’s Chinese
Cuisine in Philadelphia; Bluehour in Portland, Ore.; and Metro
Bis in Simsbury, Conn. I moved here eight years ago because my
wife is from Pittsburgh. I knew when we moved that I could have
a good culinary career here. The food scene was just coming alive
then, and I thought it was a great time to establish myself.
EXECUTIVE CHEF, ISABELA ON GRANDVIEW
pittsburghmagazine.com/eat | JAN 2014 | 105
CHEF TALK Taste