Chef Jon Shumate was recently announced as the new Chef de Cuisine of Red Stripe in East Greenwich. The RI native graduated from Johnson & Wales University with a bachelor’s degree in hotel management, but after taking a few cooking classes, he completely changed gears. He’s honed his culinary skills over ten years at a variety of restaurants throughout southern New England, including Red Stripe’s Providence location. We talked about spontaneous inspiration for his dishes and menus and how he plans to keep diners on their toes.
How did you end up as the chef de cuisine at Red Stripe?
I previously worked at Red Stripe, but I left in 2014 to open a restaurant in Warren and it didn’t do so well. I decided to leave because it was too much for me, so I had a reality check and took a few months off. I did some travelling because I wanted to get some food inspiration. I came back and Red Stripe asked me if I wanted to work with them again. I asked for a line cook job, but they had me come in as a sous chef, and it seemed like they promoted me pretty much every day I was there.
The food at Red Stripe is considered to be American Brasserie. What does that mean to you?
It’s pretty much a melting pot of flavors and food; it really is home cooking. It’s those braised meats that take six hours to cook in a crockpot. It’s meat and potatoes that we have on the menu that all the college kids eat and reminds them of home. It’s the half chickens that you eat on Sunday dinners. It’s the grilled cheeses that we also offer – we sell 16,000 of them a year per restaurant – that really makes us your down-home, down-to-earth style restaurant.
Grilled cheese is pretty basic in terms of execution. Do you ever play around with the flavors?
It’s one of those things that if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. The owners are very adamant about it and I believe that, too. I love the sandwich. I’ll eat it burnt for crying out loud.
How much interaction do you have with the other Red Stripe in Providence?
Consistency is the standard here: our grilled cheese here needs to taste the same as the grilled cheese in Providence. So does our tiramisu. We really want to keep to our standards so we can run things as smoothly and cohesively as possible together. We like to play off each other, talk about what we’re doing for specials, even share our jams. One of our sous chefs makes really good jams, and I like to empower my staff. If they can do it let them do it. He’s been making a wild berry jam, a really good tomato jam and a strawberry jam. I give him the opportunity to explore and do whatever he wants because I know it’s what he really likes to do.
On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve seen some wine dinners. How do you enjoy crafting menus for those?
The winery rep will come in and we’ll do a big tasting with the sous chefs, myself and a bunch of managers. We take notes and brainstorm with each other. [The wine dinners] give me a lot of freedom to cook and try some things we don’t really have here at Red Stripe. We don’t have Osso Buco on the menu, so we are doing Osso Buco for [a wine dinner]. We’re also doing a Veal Carpaccio and a Wild Boar and Sweet Apple Stuffed Ravioli with a butternut squash cream sauce. [The wine dinners] give me a lot more opportunities to show the town what we can do.
455 Main Street, East Greenwich