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Chef Q&A: Jeff Tenner of Not Your Average Joe's

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From Left: Jeff Tenner, nacho average nachos, saffron cod and the strawberry shortcake. Photos courtesy of Not Your Average Joe’s.

Not Your Average Joe’s, a 19-location, East Coast-based restaurant and bar, opens in Glen Mills this week. In order to score the full scoop about the kitchen, which will open another location in Ardmore in the fall, we chatted with the brand’s culinary V.P. and executive chef, Jeff Tenner.

Main Course: What’s exciting about bringing Not Your Average Joe’s to the Philadelphia area food scene?

Jeff Tenner: Not Your Average Joe’s thrives in the suburbs. Our mission is to bring chef-driven, exciting restaurants to the [often] underserved burbs. Our food and service are of the quality you’ll find in an independent city restaurant and our new design has such an awesome vibe. We feel like it’s a natural fit for us to be a part of these new communities.

As a seasoned chef, you’ve completed successful stints at Legal Sea Foods and Whole Foods, among others, before joining the NYAJ’s team to oversee the 19 East Coast locations. How do you define your cooking style, and how have your previous kitchen gigs influenced you and your career?

I was fortunate to find success at a young age in this business, starting off as a chef/owner of a successful bistro in a Boston suburb in my early 20s. As I transitioned to larger companies in my 30s, I brought my passionate, small kitchen approach to the big companies I worked for. Too often the passion for seasonality, ingredients and the craft of cooking is lost in a company’s expansion. While my training and background are rooted in European traditions, my style has evolved to focus on bold flavors.

What was your inspiration for the NYAJ menu and how have you curated local ingredients into its mix?

Seasonality is always a driver, from ingredients to technique. While the season dictates the core of our development, the innovation process is dynamic and includes a number of other key elements. There’s so much happening in our industry today with focus on health and wellness, curated ingredients, and global exploration. Our job is to find the balance in these influences that match our core mission of being the defining standard in creative casual cuisine. As for our take on local: we love to partner with farmers and producers near our locations. Here in Pa. we’re particularly excited about our local pasta, sausage, cheese and mushrooms.

We’re intrigued that the food program includes stone hearth-baked pizzas baked in a 700-degree oven. We’d love to know: what’s so special about these pies?

The oven is part of our history. Our first location in Dartmouth, Mass. [about to celebrate its 20th anniversary] has a wood-burning oven in the center of the dining room. Our pizzas are hand-stretched, thin crust pies that range from traditional to ambitious. We make flatbreads with the same dough as an appetizer and are excited about our newest addition to the menu which features Kennett Square mushrooms, fontina cheese and sautéed leeks.

What would you suggest we order and what drink(s) would pair well with those dishes?

I’ll take you through two totally different experiences, which show how versatile our menu can be:

A night out with the boys: Start with our nacho average nachos and Philly cheesesteak eggrolls with a local IPA or my favorite, the Dogfish 60 Minute. Then enjoy some burgers, my choice would be the sweet blue burger. We’d finish off with a Joe’s classic dessert—the peanut butter thing.

Date night with the wife: Share the heirloom tomato flatbread and a Nantucket chopped salad to start, and for mains, the saffron cod with pan-seared crab cake and our take on steak frites, which features a hanger steak—one of my favorite cuts. Then for dessert, share the strawberry shortcake—it is summer after all. The whole meal would be made better with a bottle of our MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir.

Find Not Your Average Joe’s at 561 Glen Eagle Square in Glen Mills. Make reservations online or by calling (610) 500-2222.

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