Chef Jay Peacock brings new flavor to Preserve

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Preserve has welcomed a new head chef to their kitchen. Jay Peacock, previously of San Francisco and Sacramento, has joined the team in Winters. General Manager Avery Struthers describes a chef’s two most important jobs are to be a constant teacher and inspector. Beyond that, Struthers and the restaurants owners, Cole and Sara Ogando, expect Peacock to elevate Preserve’s menu. Originally from Oregon, Peacock began working in California at Wayfair Tavern in San Francisco. Wayfair Tavern serves menus inspired by American food at the turn of the 20th century, and is famous for their fried chicken dish. He trained under Chef Joey Elenterio, the youngest Michelin star American chef. After San Francisco, Peacock moved on to two establishments in Sacramento. After the team at Preserve went through through dozens of applicants and multiple interviews, Peacock was invited to the final step of the interview process. He was asked to prepare two dishes. The first: a Preserve classic, but reimagined with the chef’s personal interpretation. Peacock was given a complete tour of the Preserve kitchens, and told to improve and elevate the dish with ingredients that could be found in house. His second task was to reimagine a dish that he had already created in a previous kitchen, but this time prepared in the style of the Preserve menu. They asked him to make the  fried chicken dish from one of his previous jobs. After the hiring team was blown away by Peacock’s interpretations, he was brought on as the restaurant’s newest head chef. Struthers says that this change won’t cause people to lament the loss of the Preserve they had known before. He believes customers will be saying that the restaurant is better than ever. The old favorites will still be available. Struthers says that, barring a new mind-blowing dish that makes everyone forget the shrimp and grits, the shrimp, along with the mac and cheese and pizzas, will always be on the menu. “Jay will be working within the same food program we’ve designed for seven years,” Struthers says. The intention is that he will bring his experience and fresh perspective to elevate the menu with new ideas. The menu already goes through seasonal shifts, but they are planning to refine it even further with different plates  earlier and later in the season. Peacock will also continue to lead the kitchen in the direction that Preserve has been growing for several years. “He had a similar desire that we did,” Struthers says, to bring to Winters the kind of service that people could find in San Francisco. Struthers points out that, unlike in the city, local doesn’t mean “within 100 miles,” it means from their neighbors at Terra Firma Farms. Struthers sees Peacock expanding and growing the networks with local farmers that Preserve has been cultivating for seven years. In the kitchen, Struthers says that Peacock has an “old-school professional chef feel,” meaning that he acts with urgency, but without the rudeness associated with some celebrity chefs. One thing that Struthers finds unique and innovative about Peacock is his approach to accepting alterations to menu items on customers’ request. Some chefs will absolutely refuse to make any change to dishes, others are willing to modify any meals elements on a customer’s request. Peacock has found a unique middle ground. He has several favourite dishes that he refuses to alter. Others, he doesn’t mind changing. This compromise echoes the innovative and patient approach that the Ogandos have taken to building their restaurant. “So many restaurants stubbornly stick to their concept, even if the people don’t want that,” Struthers says. The team at Preserve has listened to clientele about the general “feel” they look for when stepping into Preserve. They saw that people weren’t coming to Preserve for a sports bar type atmosphere. The business adapted with lower tables and more entrees on the menu. The restaurant is still looking to change and adapt to the Winters market. Struthers says that they are considering hosting events like small, ticketed meals with set menus. Struthers says the Preserve’s development cannot be divorced from the growth and change in Winters. As the town has grown into a foodie destination, the business was able to tailor their menu and atmosphere to a new, dependable stream of customers. Struthers credits other local businesses, like Berryessa Brewing Co. and Turkovich Winery with being a part of this change. “It’s a rising tide, but everyone has worked together to raise it,” Struthers says. Peacock started in Preserve’s kitchen in September. He began by working the previous chef’s menu, but is now influencing the dishes on the late fall menu. Currently his favourite dish features a seasonal squash, grown at a local farm. The intention is that the fried chicken that wowed at Peacock’s interview will eventually be available on the menu, after the new chef settles into his role.  ]]>

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