The Chef Selects: Kerri Rogers of Bellwether Experiments with Untraditional Kimchi

Chef-Selects_headerHere at EU Jacksonville, we want to spread the word about everything tasty here on the First Coast. We’ve talked to some of our area’s chefs about what they think you should order at their restaurants this season and why.

By Erin Thursby, EU Food Editor & Executive Director of GastroJax

Bellwether, Black Sheep Restaurant Group, Downtown Jacksonville, Florida, Chef Kerri Rogers, The Chef SelectsSituated in the heart of Downtown, Bellwether is now open for dinner Wednesday-Friday. It’s part of the Black Sheep family of restaurants. Chef Kerri Rogers has been a member of that family since the days of Chew, and she also worked at Black Sheep before rising to the level of Executive Chef at Bellwether. “I am lucky to have been able to work with Kerri for the last 10 years, and I am so excited to see what she is doing foodwise at Bellwether,” says Jonathan Insetta, owner of the Black Sheep Group.

Bellwether, Black Sheep Restaurant Group, Downtown Jacksonville, Florida, Chef Kerri Rogers, The Chef Selects

Chef Rogers’ The Chef Selects dishes for Bellwether can only be found on their evening menu, so it’s a good excuse to be there for dinner. She’s chosen two appetizers–the Kimchi Plate and the Pork Belly, and their Duck Breast entrée. The duck entrée, which sounds pretty awesome, includes the grain farro, a brown butter kabocha squash purée, pickled cherry jus, confit red beets, and caraway pecan crumble. I’m always a sucker for duck.

Bellwether, Black Sheep Restaurant Group, Downtown Jacksonville, Florida, Chef Kerri Rogers, The Chef Selects

Kimchi shows up in dishes throughout the Black Sheep family, adding a pop of pungent flavor to dishes on all the menus. It’s a trending dish, but here in Jacksonville, with our Korean population, foodies have always sought it out, sometimes at Korean restaurants, sometimes specially requesting it at a Korean run sushi joint. If you haven’t tried it, it’s made from salted and fermented vegetables, most commonly napa cabbage and Korean radishes, with a variety of seasonings such as chili powder, scallions, garlic, and ginger. But the Black Sheep Group, at Bellwether in particular, has moved beyond the traditional, taking the base of fermentation and playing with the spices and veggies. So for example, on the Kimchi plate at Bellwether, you’ll find collards as one of the five kimchis you can taste. This unexpected flavor profile, the bitter savory of the collards with a punch of heat in the middle of the funk of fermentation, is definitely something an adventurous eater should try. “Our kimchi plate is really seasonal,” says Chef Rogers, noting that they change up the vegetables based on the season and what’s available. The five kimchi on the plate currently are sweet potato, carrots, daikon, baby corn, and collards. None of them are traditional items for kimchi, says Rogers, “I’ve always loved kimchi, and it’s been a great, fun experiment to try out all these different things.”

The next appetizer she’s selected is the pork belly, which includes the collard kimchi. While it is listed as an appetizer, you could order it as a light entrée, a pretty good buy at $9. I haven’t tried it yet, but I have to say, I am most excited about the house boiled peanut purée. The pork belly features a pickled mustard seed glaze, collard kimchi, boiled peanut purée, chili-toasted pepitas, and tare sauce. Tare sauce is simply a soy-based basting sauce, generally made with a reduced broth, soy sauce, something sweet, and whatever spices the chef chooses to add.

If you’d like to try any of these dishes, head on down to Downtown after 5pm. The meters are free and the parking is easy on Wednesday-Friday nights, when they are open for dinner!

About Erin Thursby