Since his arrival in September 2014, Rosander and his culinary team have focused on creating dinner dishes that are both wholesome and appealing. “We’ve really tackled the menu to ensure that all the dishes are up to speed, in terms of nutrition and methodology,” says Chef Rosander. “Everything — including the daily specials — has been redesigned to be healthful, properly prepared and well-plated.”
The upshot is a fresh, contemporary reimagining of the entire dining experience, wherein old favorites get rejuvenated by modern culinary technique.
While inclined toward Mediterranean-style cuisine by talent, training and international culinary experience, Chef Rosander remains highly responsive to feedback from his Judson Manor constituency. “It’s apparent that my guests share a preference for comfort food without a lot of contrivances,” he says. “But there is still room for exploring Mediterranean cuisines as well. My challenge has been to create an aesthetically pleasing mix of delicious and accessible dishes: everything from meatloaf to grilled chicken Diavolo, served over penne pasta in a red pepper cream sauce.”
Not that you would expect anything less from a man whose past experience includes catering to Saudi royalty — as demanding a bunch of gastronomes as you’ll find anywhere. “It was an experience,” the chef says with a chuckle, while recalling the Saudis’ whirlwind visits to Cleveland. “They wanted these elaborate menus filled with exotic preparations — everything from KFC to caviar — and my catering team generally had less than 48 hours to produce it. On one visit I recall, I was cooking for 32 hours straight! ”
While his work at Judson is rarely that labor intensive, Chef Rosander’s stylings still flow seamlessly from the familiar to the refreshed classic. Every dish profits from top-notch ingredients and refined technique: Nearly everything is made from scratch, including the crisp, tempura-battered fried chicken; very little is prepackaged or frozen (except for the stunningly popular onion rings); and there are always several meat-free items on the menu, like the crowd-pleasing La Ribollita, a slowly simmered, Italian-style vegetable stew.
“I’ve been delighted to discover how health conscious our guests are,” says Rosander. “Even those who eat meat respond well to the vegan and vegetarian dishes we’ve designed.”
Moving forward, Chef Rosander hopes to source more of his ingredients from local farms and gardens. After all, as a newly minted farmer himself, overseeing eight acres in Berea, he has become convinced that locally grown foods both taste better and are better for the planet. His farmstead reflects that belief. Goats and chickens are among his current livestock; pigs, along with orchards and grapevines, will follow. “We’re practicing self-sufficiency,” says the chef. “Our goal is to produce a little more and consume a little less.”
Meanwhile back at the Manor, Chef Rosander continues to nurture a bumper crop of another sort: a pleasing menu of modern comfort foods with a Mediterranean twist.