Christopher Kafcsak, Executive chef, Deagan's Kitchen & Bar
We were still getting familiar with the term gastropub when Deagan's Kitchen & Bar opened in 2010. Its creative menu of better-than-bar food — particularly its spicy shrimp tacos — quickly gained loyal followers. But with five executive chefs in as many years, the kitchen turnover has somewhat blurred its culinary identity. To the rescue is 27-year-old Christopher Kafcsak, who took the helm in January after learning from some of the city's best chefs at Cibreo Italian Kitchen, Washington Place Bistro and Amp 150. He talks to us about his plans to restore Deagan's original vision.
Q. What attracted you to kitchen life?
A.I started at Creekside Restaurant and Bar in Brecksville when I was 15 1/2. I was just in the dish room, and I wanted to do more. Then I left there to go to a wholesale produce company, Premier ProduceOne. We started having all these weird ingredients come in, and I wanted to take some of this stuff home and play around with them. At the end of the day, I was like, I have to go back into cooking.
Q. Describe your cooking style.
A. Fresh food. I don't have a region or a culture that I focus on. With my catering company, Nomad Culinary, I've never opened a canned good in three years. And I'm trying to get this place onto that page as a scratch kitchen. I think the local scene is important. But there are seasons all over the world. Just because it's from Ohio doesn't mean it's the best product.
Q. What's on tap for the menu at Deagan's?
A.We're trying out new specials, about four to six per week, with the idea that the ones that are well-liked will stay on the new menu. We'll still do Taco Tuesday, Wednesday vegan night, half-price bottles of wine on Thursday and Sunday brunch. I'm not trying to turn this place into a fine, fine dining spot or upscale dining spot. I just want to get in a better quality product.
Q. What ingredients are you excited to use?
A.Parsnips are probably my No. 1 go-to vegetable. I just love everything about them. They're sweet, they roast well, they puree well — they're just so delicious. But really whatever is out there. If I've never played around with it, I'm bringing it in.