Jason Hicks: Bringing a British Pub to the Big Apple

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How’d you get started?

I came into New York in ‘96. I had owned a restaurant when I was 19 in the UK. It had earned a bit of notoriety and soon after, I got a job in New Zealand, which I took. I immigrated to New Zealand to start up the restaurant, but the job didn’t work out. I ended up staying there for about 6 months or so travelling around, and then moved to Australia. I worked in various places there, and then moved to South East Asia for about a year. I was travelling for about three years.

And then I ended up in New York. I wasn’t supposed to be staying in New York, I was just travelling through, but I had a couple of friends here. I had my luggage in arrivals, waiting for my connection, and I called them, they asked me to hang out for a bit-and I’m still here.

I became a sous chef at a La Goulue on Madison Avenue, and was there for about 10 years as the executive chef, and then went to their sisterrestaurant Orsay, and was there for 5. After I left there, I decided I wanted to open up my own place. It took about a year or so to get it all together, and then I opened up Jones Wood Foundry.

Tell me about Jones Wood Foundry.

We aim to be a local pub pleasantly surprising people with the quality of the food. We have the authenticity of a real pub-not a typical New York bar or a gastropub or whatever. When I was looking for a space, I was looking for a place with bones and structure that would expose the soul of the restaurant before I even applied a lick of paint-and I believe I found it here. There is so much history in this particular location: it used to be a foundry where they made manhole covers, and it’s located where Central Park was supposed to be.

We’re more of a food-driven pub, but you can come to the bar here and buy a drink and not feel pestered into buying food. You can come in, hang out, chat with the bartender, commiserating, celebrating, the whole nine yards. If you come back into the dining room, it has the same style of service-very casual, but on point-we don’t trip ourselves around the table.

How did you get into cooking?

Truthfully or romantically? Well, I was always into cooking. Growing up, my grandfather was an avid gardener. I got into learning about vegetables and appreciating food without even thinking about cooking. My mum and my grandmother were big cooks.

As I went into school, I always took home economics. Thoroughly enjoyed it. As I went through school I wasn’t the perfect student. I ended up not wanting to be in school anymore, and got kicked out basically. I went to work at a steakhouse washing dishes, and got very quickly promoted to a chef position. I ended up leaving the restaurant and enrolling myself into a culinary course. From there, I started cooking in various restaurants in England-calling myself a chef, and now we’re here.

What kind of food do you serve?

I’m English-a proud Brit-and what I wanted to do was do some research to serve real, authentic British recipes. British cooking has a really bad rap, deservedly so in a lot of cases, but not in most. About 70% of the menu is fish and chips, bangers and mash, steak and kidney pie-things like that. And then the other 30% is composed from my experience-I’ve cooked on so many different continents, so we put that into play.

What are you looking forward to at the Art of Food?

I’m very intrigued by the concept: getting a piece of art, feeling inspired by it, and creating a dish. I don’t do cookery competitions or any of that stuff. But this is something completely out of the box. Pardon the pun, but I’ll be starting with a blank canvas. It’s going to be interesting to see what comes to mind when I see the art.

Catch Jones Wood Foundry at the Art of Food Feb. 4, 2017: www.artoffoodny.com

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