Providing a unique dining experience, supporting local farmers, and looking for another “road not taken”, Zacks Local Farm to Table Restaurant on Wood Street in New Bethlehem is the Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce’s first Business of the Month.
Restaurateur Zack Blose brings fresh ideas, and fresh food, to the Redbank Valley dining scene. The Wood Street establishment provides dining in and event catering. There is a natural synergy with the 2 avenues of sales. People walk in to dine and may become a catering customer while catering
events may be other people’s first exposure to Zack’s unique style of cooking. According to Zack, the catering supports the dine in restaurant. All of Zack’s formal work experience has been in the food industry. His first job was at Rocky’s Pizza in New Bethlehem when he was a senior at Redbank Valley High School.
Following his tenure at Rocky’s, Zack worked at the Holiday Inn in Clarion. With nearly 200 rooms, the Holiday Inn gave him his first experience in preparing a large of number of meals. The restaurant’s catering service gave Zack his first experience with cooking for large events. IUP’s Academy of Culinary Arts in Punxsutawney was the next stop on Zack Blose’s epicurean journey.
Though well hidden in our near neighbor borough of Punxsutawney – known mostly for the generally wrong guessing weather large field rodent – The Academy of Culinary Arts is nationally respected for the quality work of their graduates. A part of Zack’s IUP training was an externship with the Grove City College’s food service.
While “Boomers” may have jaded memories of cafeteria food from their collegiate years, the typical, modern college dining experience offers buffet style offering many food styles at each meal. A chef at Grove City College would have the opportunity every day to plan, prepare, and cook more that 1,000 meals 3 times daily at either one of the campus cafeterias. Many college cafeterias rival the largest buffet style restaurants in scope and scale of food styles and daily volume. There might not be any better “training under fire” for a chef than a modern college cafeteria, and Zack Blose learned as much as he could from each of his work experiences.
Finishing his time at Grove City College, Zack took on the sous-chef position with the Clarion University Food Service. The sous-chef is the kitchen’s working manager, responsible for every aspect of food preparation and delivery. This position added to Zack’s experience with planning and preparing meals for large groups. After this experience Zack cooked at Tuff’s Barbeque in Hawthorn, just prior to buying Rocky’s Pizza and striking out on his own. A chance conversation with Mr. Don Shirey led to Zack’s Pizza moving from Broad Street to the current location on Wood Street and began the evolution from a “pizza joint” to the area’s only “farm to table” restaurant.
Zack says that he has several goals for his restaurant business. He hopes to provide the local dining public with a unique dining experience with the “farm to table” model. Sourcing from local producers appeals to Zack for several reasons. He likes knowing that the food he offers is raised well and safely and he likes the idea of buying local and supporting the local economy.
Just as his restaurant business evolves, so are his business goals. He is currently looking for a way to incorporate locally sourced “spirits” into the restaurant’s business “local farm – to – table” model. Zack is not interested in simply adding a “bar” to the restaurant. He would prefer to show case a local winery, distillery, or vintner. Or, perhaps to become a locally sourced, small craft brewer himself.
The craft brewery idea intrigues Zack for several reasons. Many restaurants have incorporated a small batch brewery into the floor plan of the restaurant. These bring in the curious, who then, hopefully, become customers. The craft brewery restaurants tend to provide a different atmosphere and experience than do taverns. Taverns and bars serve alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages and might serve food. The brewery – restaurant offers meals, with their “homebrew” beer as a specialty beverage with the meal. Not only is the main purpose different between the 2 concepts, but the ambience and style tend to be much different, too. Taverns don’t tend to be “family friendly, while the brewery – restaurants tend to be.
The craft brewery also fits in with Zack’s locally sourced philosophy. Barley and hops – the two major ingredients of beer grow well in this area. A craft brewery in New Bethlehem would provide a new, if small, market possibility for an entrepreneurial farmer or two in the local area. Niche market for specialty crops offer small farmers a competitive edge over large scale, commercial farmers. Whatever form Zack’s goals evolve into, quality and community will be part of the picture.
When asked what makes Zack’s Local Farm to Table Restaurant unique, Zack’s first response was “Me!” accompanied by his impish grin. But becoming a bit more serious, he went on to say that the locally sourced meat and produce is unique to restaurants in this area. Expanding on this, led Zack to explain what the most unique aspect of his business may be. “We sell coffee – Canyon Coffee sells coffee, and yes, we may be ‘competitors’ in the simplest definition of the term, but we both offer unique products and service. Joe’s sells dinners, we sell dinners; but the dining experience at Joe’s is different from the dining experience here. The restaurants here in town all offer quality fare in their own special style. We are all special parts of a special small-town community.”
Maybe Zack Blose is what makes his restaurant unique!