Friday, December 15, 2017
Restaurant News

Birchwood chef's dad is his sous chef

ST. PETERSBURG

When Jason Cline was little, his bedroom was next to the room where his father, an electrician, made his work calls. To his friends, Jason would mimic his father's end of these conversations: "This is Kevin calling with a work order to put energy management on your air conditioner or water heater." ¶ As far as Jason was concerned, being an electrical project manager meant spending your days in sweltering attics or out in the hot Florida sun. He would do something different, eventually attending Johnson & Wales to learn to be a chef. ¶ His first Father's Day in culinary school, Jason smoked a brisket for his father. No one vividly recalls that meal, but Kevin does remember that the kitchen was a mess. He himself had administered Jason's first cooking lessons years before, regularly enlisting his young son's help in making sausages. ¶ Last spring, Kevin, 58, was offered a choice: He could move into a lower-paying electrical job or leave with a severance package. He took the severance. At that same time, Jason was gearing up to be the executive chef of the soon-to-open Birchwood Inn on St. Petersburg's downtown waterfront.

"Dad was mulling around what to do next," Jason, 36, said. "He had some leads in the same field, but he said, 'I'm sick and tired of this. Maybe you could find a place for me at the Birchwood.' The whole time, I thought he was just going through a crisis, but he kept harping on it."

A friend of Jason's was selling some Wusthof knives — a paring knife, an 8-inch chef's knife and a Japanese-style santoku knife. He bought them for his father.

"I picked up a 50-pound bag of carrots and came by with a note: You need to YouTube all these knife cuts — brunoise, julienne, macedoine. You need to know your knife cuts."

Jason's mother, Kimberly, a nurse in Largo, would call to report on his dad's progress. Dad won't stop talking about it. He has learned all the knife cuts.

Last May 2, the doors opened at the Birchwood, with Jason as executive chef and Kevin his employee, a different spin on father and son joined in the family business.

"I told him, 'I'm Chef and you're Kevin.' But sometimes I get excited and say, 'Hey, Dad.' "

Kevin is not new to professional kitchens. At age 15, he worked as a dishwasher and prep cook at Foit's Restaurant on Lake Erie in Buffalo, N.Y. Beef on weck, fish fries — dishes that are a far cry from the edgy New American fare son Jason is known for.

A year into this arrangement at the Birchwood, Kevin opens up in the morning, cooking breakfast for the hotel guests and then prepping for lunch, making the quiches, dressings and spring rolls. By most accounts, Kevin has made himself indispensable in the kitchen.

"He's become a rock star," Jason said, clearly proud. "He just went on vacation and people in the kitchen were asking, 'What are we going to do without Kevin?' "

Jason has taught his father a lot about working with contemporary tools of the trade, but he said his father taught him his work ethic: "Growing up, he'd go to work, then he'd come home and work more at the house. He taught me to do your job and do it right."

For Kevin, the benefits of the Birchwood job go beyond being the boss' dad.

"When I was in construction, I was working all the time. I'm a lot closer to him now."

The elder and younger Cline both have the day off this Father's Day. They plan to spend it on the family's boat.

Laura Reiley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.

     
 
Comments
Ranking America’s top 10 chain restaurants. How does your favorite stack up

Ranking America’s top 10 chain restaurants. How does your favorite stack up

People love to pick on chain restaurants. Like used car salesmen, the mass feeders are easy targets. Their uniformity and ubiquity seem to go against a culture increasingly bent on personal customization. Indeed, it has been a rough past few years f...
Published: 12/15/17
Hotly anticipated Ichicoro Ane is now open in St. Petersburg

Hotly anticipated Ichicoro Ane is now open in St. Petersburg

Noel Cruz seemed remarkably chill. As did his partner Kerem Koca. All around them in the Station House building in St. Petersburg, workers pounded the last nails, bartenders unpacked boxes of glassware and jewel-toned bottles of Amari, and the kitche...
Published: 12/12/17
Restaurant review: Let the food and outstanding cocktails at CW’s Gin Joint transport you back to the 1920s

Restaurant review: Let the food and outstanding cocktails at CW’s Gin Joint transport you back to the 1920s

TAMPAMaybe it’s the twinkling chandeliers. All skajillion of them. Or maybe it is the rhythmic syncopation of ice cubes in shiny shakers. It could be the old-timey metal dessert cart with its silver cloches and chafing dishes, or else the chummy-but-...
Published: 12/11/17
Restaurant review: 1895 Kitchen Bar Market needs to do a lot more to stand out in downtown Tampa

Restaurant review: 1895 Kitchen Bar Market needs to do a lot more to stand out in downtown Tampa

TAMPA Just a block away from CW’s Gin Joint, the folks at Urban Juice Co. have retooled, taking the historic Franklin building, one of the city’s oldest, erected in 1895, and re-envisioning it in September as 1895 Kitchen-Bar-Market, a "...
Published: 12/11/17
A vegan soul food eatery is opening in St. Petersburg

A vegan soul food eatery is opening in St. Petersburg

SOUL FOOD: VEGAN STYLERay Milton is a boxing instructor and former pastry chef and proprietor of Sugar Ray’s Bakery in St. Petersburg. In the past couple of years he has branched out with something entirely different. He runs a food truck that sells ...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Food news: Byblos reopens in South Tampa, Arab food festival this weekend

Food news: Byblos reopens in South Tampa, Arab food festival this weekend

REOPENING: BYBLOSYou know that hour before people show up for a dinner party where you think, "Holy smokes, I’ll never be ready in time. What was I thinking?" Nearly every restaurant opening, or reopening, is like that. I scooted by Byblos, a long-st...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
These Tampa Bay restaurants took honors in the Golden Spoon Awards

These Tampa Bay restaurants took honors in the Golden Spoon Awards

Florida Trend’s annual Golden Spoon awards were announced last week, honoring Florida’s best restaurants. Although Florida Trend serves the state’s business community, the Golden Spoons are a valuable consumer tool. Because Florida restaurants seldom...
Published: 12/04/17
Updated: 12/05/17
Free iced coffee Monday as Dunkin’ Donuts offers #CupOfThanksFlorida

Free iced coffee Monday as Dunkin’ Donuts offers #CupOfThanksFlorida

Dunkin’ Donuts is giving thanks to Floridians with a free small iced coffee on Monday.The #CupOfThanksFlorida promotion is aimed at thanking customers for weathering Hurricane Irma as some locations had to close or change their hours, according to br...
Published: 12/04/17
Restaurant review: Clear Sky on Cleveland Global Bistro tries to cover every food on the planet

Restaurant review: Clear Sky on Cleveland Global Bistro tries to cover every food on the planet

CLEARWATERAll three of the Clear Sky restaurants read like the work of someone who’s been paying attention to what folks want.Co-owner Dan Shouvlin has got the proper curriculum vitae (a background in TGI Friday’s, Chi Chi’s, Olive Garden and then a ...
Published: 11/30/17
Updated: 12/04/17
This week’s food news: Clearwater Beach Uncorked, happy 25th birthday to Guppy’s

This week’s food news: Clearwater Beach Uncorked, happy 25th birthday to Guppy’s

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: GUPPY’STwenty-five years for a restaurant is a stupendous achievement in an industry with a two-thirds failure rate. So let’s bake a cake for Guppy’s on the Beach, or at least go there and eat cake. It opened its doors at 1701 Gulf Bl...
Updated one month ago