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Photo provided by HIGHLAND SPRINGS
Photo provided by HIGHLAND SPRINGS

Five Questions: Jonathan Kraft

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Dotting the résumé of Highland Springs Country Club Executive Chef Jonathan Kraft are The Jockey Club at the Ritz Carlton in Manhattan, N.Y., The Duquesne Club & Per Favore Restaurant in Pittsburg, and the Dean’s House at Harvard Business School. A St. Louis native, Kraft also has served as guest chef for the DeWitts, owners of the St. Louis Cardinals, during each Busch Stadium home opener since 2003. He now leads a staff of 14, including two sous chefs, in the Highland Springs kitchen.

World Champions
“I work for the Cardinals one day a year. I do the home opener for the owners in their suite, and I usually cook for them and the hall-of-famers. I was a regional chef for Sodexo Corp. … and I interviewed for the executive chef position at Busch Stadium. Sept. 11 happened, and the chef who was going to move up to be the corporate chef was held at Busch Stadium for another six months. He and I actually became good friends, and we started doing culinary competitions together. We went to the Culinary Olympics in Germany in 2004 and got a bronze medal. They needed a chef to cook for the owners in their suite every home opener, so that became me.”

Swordfish on Ice
“I was at Sunset Country Club in St. Louis for about five years, and I ran my own catering and private-chef business, J Kraft Chef Services. The economy has been kind of tough, and I really enjoy working with a culinary team where I have a staff to work with and we can do events and stuff like that. I saw the Highland Springs position in the jobs postings on the American Culinary Federation Web site. I sent an e-mail and … we did a few phone interviews, and then I came down to cook for them. I did an ice carving for them before I cooked them lunch. They had a seafood buffet that week, so I carved a swordfish. Then I cooked a four-course meal for lunch, and I was offered the job right after that.”

Tapas Top of Mind
“I like international cuisine. We are working on a tapas menu right now. It will be coming out soon – small plates, international flavors, different small items that people can share family style. We just did a sampling at the house committee meeting. I’m a little over a month into (the job), and … I’ve jumped in headfirst and am trying to take it by storm.”

“My mother lived in St. Louis; my father lived in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. In high school in New York, I got a dishwashing job that was about two miles from the Culinary Institute of America. I met some students that were going to culinary school there, and checked it out, and I decided that was what I wanted to do. At that point, there was a one-year waiting list to get on at the CIA. My cousins lived in Fort Meyers, Fla., at the time and my aunt said, ‘You should come down and check out this resort if you want to learn how to cook.’ So, she talked to the chef, and I talked to him, and I ended up moving down to Florida for a year.”

Schooled at Harvard
“Once I graduated, I worked at the Ritz Carlton in New York City – the restaurant was called The Jockey Club. My wife was finishing school in Pittsburgh, and I ended up moving to Pittsburgh for a couple of years. I worked at the Duquesne Club under Master Chef Tom Peer. That was a phenomenal experience. Then I moved back to Florida and worked on Sanibel Island. After that, I went to the Harvard Business School in Boston. That’s where I really feel like I became a chef.”

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