Chef Sebastian is a recent transplant to Ogden. Having moved here from California just two months ago, he hasn’t had much time to explore our town, but he has been busy meeting with local farmers and artisans as he develops recipes for Hearth restaurant. Hearth is one of the few fine dining establishments in Ogden and restaurant week is the perfect chance to try out their adventurous dishes.
Last week I hung out in the kitchen with Chef Sebastian, Chef Brett, and Hearth owner Shana Hubbard as they walked me through their process and talked about their favorite local ingredients for a special restaurant week Q & A. Talking to the them was inspiring, their love and passion for local food is truly contagious and that passion oozed out of their beautiful dishes.
What is one food that draws/connects you to a special memory?
Chef Sebastian: It would probably be tomato sauce because my mom always made tomato sauce from scratch. My mother is Italian, her family is from a little town called Capoverso, just outside of Naples. So all those smells…sauteing garlic, onions, tomatoes…all those smells bring me back to childhood. Here we have a tomato based sauce on the restaurant week menu, but it’s much different than hers.
What is your favorite food to prepare/eat and why?
Chef Sebastian; I love making…I don’t know! There are so many good things out there; I have been cooking for so long I just love to do it all. I guess if I had to choose it would be pasta. It’s very relaxing, it’s rhythmic, I go into a zen like state.
When you aren’t dining at this restaurant, where do you like to grab a bite to eat?
Chef Sebastian: I’ve never eaten anywhere else! I have only been here since February, and I’ve been in the restaurant all this time. I have tried some Salt Lake restaurants; The Copper Onion was great. Here at Hearth, I love our Elk dish. We are searing the Elk in an espresso, onion ash rub and serving over a black currant risotto with a juniper berry balsamic reduction and wild arugula.
Where is your favorite place to source local ingredients/what is your favorite local ingredient?
Chef Sebastian: The Slide Ridge honey is really good, and I am enjoying using Lehi Roller Mills flour for our pasta as well.
Shana Hubbard: He has yet to meet a few of our colorful vendors. I was telling him just recently just to wait until he meets these people, they are quite interesting.
Chef Sebastian: Oh and Gordon’s cows. We have a guy who raises Wagyu cows. They are a particular type of cow related to Kobe. We also use a local heirloom farm for our cornmeal, radishes, carrots and quite a few things are from him
Shana Hubbard: He just emailed me today and told me that he just got his first chive and asparagus harvest. He emails us as soon as he gets stuff and we get first dibs on everything. We get a feel for our farmers and what they can grow, what the seasons are and develop our menu around that. And then beyond that, the specials that Sebastian writes is hyper-focused on local, so when we get something fast, he creates something around that. For instance, Morel season is coming up, and we have a guy who calls us up when he has harvested, and he sends us some photos and then Sebastian will put together a dish for that week using them.
Chef Sebastian: When I met Gordon that does our Wagyu meat, he said you know if you have some time come by the farm. So I got in my car and drove here. I saw the cows we use, and they were there in the field, eating grass.
Shana Hubbard: Our cows come certified, so I have papers for them, I have the whole family tree of these cows, and they are from right over in Willard. We even grow our own foods; we grow about 20 different varieties of micro greens, we hand pull our mozzarella, make our own buratta, the honey is smoked in our oven, and we grow water chestnut.
Tell us about your signature dishes you’ve put together for restaurant week
Shana Hubbard: We picked items from our menu that people loved and we chose dishes that we could produce quickly to accommodate the restaurant week crowd.
Chef Sebastian: It’s hard because we wanted to showcase who we are and what we can do but we also needed to contain it in a way that could accommodate all the people we get in. We also want to challenge the local pallet. With our burger, for instance, there are a ton of burgers in Ogden, but ours is grass-fed Wagyu beef. We make our buns, we make our sauce, we use Beehive Cheese and local produce. That’s one thing about Ogden; there is a lot of history here, and people are very proud of that. There are a lot of individuals who grow here, so there is a lot of food to source from. It’s funny when I ask people what their favorite local ingredient is, and they say; I don’t know…potatoes? There is so much, and we should be proud of that!
Shana Hubbard: It is tricky though because of our short seasons, but I think that’s why jams and preserves and that creative way of preserving food is so popular here.
Chef Sebastian: Ya, and we should be proud of that as well. The first people to settle here had to figure out ways to preserve their food, and they created these unique ways of preserving, and that is a part of the history here.
Shana Hubbard: In winter we do shift from fresh produce to the preserves even in our salad. We go from fresh cherries to cherry preserves, and we work with the season and get creative in those ways.
Chef Sebastian prepared a few dishes from their 6-course menu as we wrapped up our Q & A. Hearth is the only restaurant offering a 6-course menu during restaurant week. For only $40 you can try six gourmet hyper-local dishes, a meal that would ordinarily be quite a splurge.
Each dish at Hearth is delicately prepared, each microgreen, spice, and herb are thoughtfully placed. As Chef S tossed asparagus and potatoes, Shana described the flavors in each sauce, and as she got to the honey, she was suddenly side-tracked by the house made burrata, a cheese trifecta drizzled in the same smoked honey as the salmon. Shana insisted I try the burrata and who was I to refuse cheese? Although not a part of their restaurant week menu, you have to try this cheesy appetizer when you get a chance to. Back to the salmon, the crust is toasted to perfection from the wood burning stove, paired with the veggies it was absolute spring heaven. Usually, I separate the skin from my fish and toss it aside, but this skin was crisp and salty, I devoured it in a single bite.
Chef S also brought a sampling of a few other restaurant week treats including a jalapeno and lime gelato whose flavor will forever be etched in my memory. Sweet, spicy, cold and a warming sensations all at once, the house made gelato is near impossible to describe but oh so irresistible.
As I sat on the enclosed porch, staring off at the mountains and eating food rich in local ingredients (right down to the Utah salt), I couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of connection. At Hearth, food is more than something to be consumed and forgotten; food is life, heart, and community.