How Resto Chef Keeps Job Interesting

Robert Ubhaus doesn't always know what ingredients he will be using, or what he will make with them, too far in advance.

A dish with new potatoes purchased at the Madison Farmers Market on Thursday will be on the menu at this weekend.

Precisely what dish, even owner and chef Robert Ubhaus couldn't say. Possibly some kind of potato salad.

"They just looked good," Ubhaus said.

Weekly trips to farmers' markets in Madison and Chatham, where he lives, keep things interesting for Ubhaus and his customers.

The walk from his Main Street restaurant takes about a minute.

This week, among the fresh produce he bought from the Vacchiano Farm tent were young fennel, spring onions and flat beans.

Back at his restaurant, with the help of line cook Christian Raho, a Madison High School senior, vegetables were sliced, water was boiled, and, before long, foie gras on a salad of produce from the farmers' market—on the restaurant menu that evening—was plated.

At the market, Ubhaus also bought garlic picked from the ground that morning and zucchini for his scallop set, a take on ratatouille.

Ubhaus has purchased ingredients from Vacchiano Farm in Washington Township in Warren County—owned by husband and wife Anthony and Liz Vacchiano, both Madision High School graduates—since he opened Resto four years ago. He buys ingredients from other farmers at the markets as well.

When the Vacchianos' yellow tomatoes come in in the coming weeks, he will make yellow tomato gazpacho from them. He serves the gazpacho at Resto and he also will make some for Vacchiano Farm to sell by the quart at the market.

In addition to their produce, he also buys rabbit, pheasant and chicken from the Vacchianos.

While Ubhaus shops for local ingredients, he is not a devotee of any particular "local food movement."

For one, produce is seasonal, and using on only local ingredients would significantly limit his menu options. And in other instances, food from elsewhere, such as French cheeses, are better than what he can get locally, he said.

"I strive everyday to find a balance between the best of what I can get locally with the best of what I can't," Ubhaus said. "I'm not going to sacrifice my standards on the altar of locavorism."

The tomatoes from Vacchiano Farm, for example, are local and Ubhaus says they are the best.


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