Chef Joe West is headed east. The 27-year-old former chef de cuisine at Bluestem is the new executive chef for the Cincinnatian Hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“I left Bluestem because I wanted to be my own chef,” West says. “I spent a couple months being picky because essentially this was going to be the most important job I have as far as being recognized as a chef.”
West began his career as a prep cook at 40 Sardines when he was 16 years old. He graduated from Johnson in Wales in 2007 and took a position as the pastry sous chef at Bluestem. Six years after he first stepped foot in 40 Sardines, West was running his own kitchen at the Delaware Cafe.
“It was my first time doing everything and opening a restaurant. I do believe it made me a better chef,” West says of being named an executive chef at the age of 22.
He then moved to Vegas, where he worked at Alex Restaurant and Stratta before returning to Bluestem three years ago. In 2013, West traveled with Bluestem and Rye owners Megan and Colby Garrelts to the James Beard Awards, where Colby Garrelts was named the Best Chef: Midwest.
“To see him and Megan celebrate and be a part of that. I’m never going to forgot those moments. It was one of the best nights of my life and I just watched,” West says.
He was the chef de cuisine at the Westport restaurant until last November. That’s when he began looking for another kitchen to run in Kansas City. He also considered opening his own eatery. But nothing seemed like the right fit, so West extended his search around the country. Colby Garrelts had cooked at The Cincinnatian for several events in the past few years and when they dropped him a message that they had an opening, he passed it on to West.
“I’m glad I waited because now I really have the opportunity to put my stamp on the food. I want to give guests something that’s hard to find and exciting, something where I can express my creativity,” West says of his plans for The Palace Restaurant in the hotel. “I’m also excited to create a new experience for room service.”
The room service menu will be an extension of the bar menu at The Cricket — The Cincinnatian’s lounge. West expects that he’ll find a way to do his take on some of his favorites from Bluestem: the steak frites and the shrimp and grits.
“It’s just such an on point dish. It’s cheesy and warm and it’s got the spice and heat from the shrimp,” West says.
He’ll will be living and working at the hotel for the first few months he’s in Ohio.
“Now that I know what’s it tastes like [at The James Beard Awards], I really want to go for it,” West says. “And hopefully I get to bring my own sous chef along with me one day.”[Image via Joe West]