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York native Jason Viscount did not always dream of becoming a chef. He was, however, fortunate enough to have a role model to learn from. As the hostess of many dinner parties, Viscount’s grandmother prepared meals such as Welsh rarebit, made with cheese, beer and mustard sauce.
During his middle school years, Viscount also had a chance to learn from his restaurateur father, and working in two of his father’s restaurants sparked his interest in culinary arts. Viscount and his family lived in the basement of one of the restaurants, and food deliveries coming into the restaurant via Viscount’s bedroom were a regular occurrence.
Viscount’s life had always been influenced by fine cuisine and the food service industry, and by the time he needed to decide upon a career, he didn’t hesitate to attend the Restaurant School of Philadelphia.
It was at the Restaurant School that Viscount fully developed and nurtured his passion for food. After graduation, Viscount returned to central Pennsylvania and became a chef at the Yorktowne Hotel, followed by a stint at Hotel Hershey’s Circular Dining Room and eventually an eight-year run as chef de cuisine at Harrisburg Hilton’s Golden Sheaf.
Now at BRICCO, Viscount enjoys the title of executive chef and all of the responsibility and creative freedom that come with it. Since starting at BRICCO, Viscount has been cooking up numerous accolades for himself and the restaurant. In 2007, Harrisburg Magazine readers named BRICCO “Best New Restaurant” and in March 2008 Viscount was named Chef of the Year by the Hershey Harrisburg Tourism and Convention Bureau.
Viscount’s zeal for fine food is not put on the back burner when he exits the restaurant after work. At the home Viscount shares with his wife, you’ll find him enjoying his extra-large kitchen that fills the space of the regular kitchen, as well as the dining room. Viscount may conjure up plenty of his own recipes there, but the influences of Viscount’s past still remain. Lamb kidney stew on an English muffin and a slice of tomato — Viscount’s grandmother’s breakfast specialty — is still the perfect way for Viscount to start each day.
I sat down with Viscount and asked him to share with me some thoughts on his experiences, what brought to this point in his career and how he directs his kitchen. I also asked him to share a nice recipe of his; you will find it at the bottom of this interview:
Why did you want to become a chef?
When I was a child, I lived with my grandmother. She taught me how to cook, and we cooked dinner parties together. When I was 12, my father bought two restaurants and I worked at both of them.
What education would you recommend for aspiring chefs?
Always work in the best restaurant you can for two or more years, then go to culinary school.
What do you recommend for on the job training?
Do your homework and pick the best place to learn from.
Do you see any changes in food trends?
Experimental Cuisine is becoming a trend; keeping a balance between modern cuisine while maintaining a healthy and sustainable approach to food preparation.
What is your greatest challenge in getting the ingredients you need?
The real challenge is finding the sources for them. Every menu takes me weeks to find the right products.
Has the price of energy affected your industry?
Yes. Food prices, delivery charges and over all costs have gone up.
Do you see any dining trends within the US or abroad; including types of food today?
Local and fresh food, quality made items with thought in to the flavors
Do you see any dining trends surfacing for the future?
While prices keep rising you will see chefs becoming more creative with the ingredients they use. The meat portions will tend to be smaller and the accompaniments will tend to be the focal point of the plate.
How much of the recipes you create is corporate and how much is your own?
My staff and I come up with all of our recipes. Our corporation uses a lot of them in the other hotels they own and manage.
What fabric and style of uniform do you enjoy wearing most?
All of our cooks wear black chef pants and classic white chef jackets. Students wear white beanie hats and cooks wear black beanie hats. Chefs wear toques.
What is your method of developing your Sous chefs?
We always promote within a company when we can. We move people around the company so that can grow and learn more.
Do you try to create a team spirit and environment with the kitchen staff? If so how do you accomplish it?
I hire and promote people that compliment me and have strengths where I need it. Also, the people that work with me must know hospitality and be interested in cooking for the guest and not just themselves.
When preparing your menu do you consider health and try to prepare foods that are healthier?
We offer vegetarian items as well as lighter cuisine on our menu.
Do you notice any resistance to unhealthy dishes?
No I don’t see any resistance however there is a growing trend of people eating healthier foods. If the food tastes good there is no resistance.
Do you enjoy dining out in your free time?
Yes I travel every year to seek out new restaurant and new items.
Do you try to experience the food at your competitors? Do you ever get ideas from competitors?
In our area we try and stay cutting edge, and most of the time they are getting their ideas from Bricco.
Do you think it is important to visit the markets rather than just have standard orders?
I worked in a farmers market for years and I use the local farms whenever I can.
How do you test a new recipe without putting it on the permanent menu?
We always make them and try them first with the staff, and then try them out on the chefs table.
Do you pick the wines or is there a separate beverage manager?
I pick them. We have over 150 wines on our wine list along with 45 wines by the glass, and wine flights. We have a lot of Italian wines as well as several local Pennsylvania wines. We do a lot of wine education at Bricco and all are staff is very knowledgeable about our wine list and are encouraged to give input on the wine list.
What is your advice for planning a menu for a new restaurant?
Cook for what your guest wants…not what you want to cook. Our menu has changed a lot at Bricco over the years. Listen to your guests.
Could you please share a recipe with us???
Duck ragout (recipe follows) 5 oz
Sage Papardelle 12 ea
Buerre Monte 1 oz
Veal Demi glace 1 oz
Shaved Pecorino cheese garnish
1. For pick up; heat duck ragout up in a sauté pan, add butter, demi, salt and pepper
2. Drop pasta into water and cook, once cooked toss in pan with duck and a little bit of pasta water creating a sauce, serve in a large bowl with parsley and shaved cheese
Olive oil as needed
Duck, legs 6ea.
Pancetta 1 cup
White onion, minced Cup
Celery, minced 2oz.
Carrots, minced 2oz.
Pancetta, minced 2oz.
Rosemary sprigs 3ea.
Thyme sprigs 3ea.
Bay leaf 3ea.
Parsley leaves, (Italian) chopped 3Tbsp.
Garlic minced 1Tbsp.
Juniper berries, crushed 12ea.
Black peppercorns, crushed 4ea.
Tomato paste 2Tbsp.
Red wine ¼Cup
Chicken stock as needed
1. Heat olive oil and butter, when butter is melted add duck pieces, and brown slowly, rendering out excess fat. Add vegetables sauté about 15-20 minutes. Add brandy and cook out.
2. Dice pancetta and add to duck
3. Add broth, to cover by 1-inch, tomato paste, herbs and spices. Taste for seasoning. Braise on stovetop, slowly, for 1 hour or more time as needed. Cool and skim fat.
4. Once meat is pulled off bone, strain sauce and reduce till heavy nape, add back to duck and reserve for service
Bricco Sage Pasta Dough
Flour, OO flour 2.2#
1 oz olive oil 1 oz
1 oz water 1 oz
Pinch of salt
Sage, minced 3 oz
1. combine all ingredients in Hobart mixer
2. turn on to speed 2 and walk away
3. when mixture becomes a ball pull out of mixture and hand kneed till smooth
4. wrap in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes
If making flavored pastas add fresh or dried herbs to the dough before pulling out of the Hobart and then incorporating by hand for most flavorful results
If you are putting a liquid puree in pasta for color substitute wet ingredients for amount of puree used
Chef Jason Viscount
Restaurant – BRICCO – A Tuscan-style restaurant featuring unique Mediterranean dishes, California-style stone oven pizza, homemade pasta and an extensive wine list.
31 south 3rd street
Harrisburg Pa 17101
For Dining Reservations, Please call: 717-724-0222
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