Since it opened in 2010, Deagan’s Kitchen and Bar in Lakewood has always been a chef-driven restaurant. Opening chef Demetrios Atheneos got the gastropub off to a strong start during his two-year tenure before exiting to open his own place, the Oak Barrel in Valley View.
Veteran chef Tim Bando brought decades of restaurant experience to Deagan’s at a time when it was needed most, staying on a year before exiting to open his own place, Grove Hill in Chagrin Falls.
Next in line for Deagan’s is Christopher Kafcsak, a 27-year-old whiz with an already impressive culinary resume. But it was his maturity and enthusiasm for the position that most impressed owner Dan Deagan.
“I’ve had really good luck with most of my chefs,” Deagan says. “With Demetrios, I was really excited because we were opening the restaurant. With [Tim] Bando, I was really excited because it was Bando. But as far as somebody who can run the kitchen the way I want it to be run, this is the most excited I’ve been.”
This will be Kafcsak’s first executive chef position, having worked as sous chef at Cibreo, Washington Place Bistro, and Amp 150. He has spent much of his professional career working alongside the talented chef Melissa Khoury. The young chef says that he wasn’t even looking for a vertical move, but fate had other plans for him.
“Deagan was looking for a chef and Melissa told him to call me,” Kafcsak explains. “I wasn’t looking for an executive chef job, but I will always listen to what people have to say. It sounded like such a good fit, though. I could use whatever purveyor I wanted to get the best product. Deagan isn’t as concerned about the bottom line as he is with guest satisfaction. That was just music to my ears.”
When he starts on January 19, Kafcsak will be in charge of a drastically different operation than the one he is leaving. As a theater restaurant, he explains, Cibreo is unlike typical restaurants.
“It’s so acute there,” he says of Cibreo. “It’s an hour and a half of getting hammered and then, after that, you might as well break down and go home.”
As for the menu Kafcsak will be inheriting, there are a few sacred cows, says Deagan, but beyond that, the new chef will be given free rein.
“There are certain things on the menu that can’t change,” Deagan says. “But there are others that can use some improvement. And then he will run specials, and then start introducing more of his items on the menu. We tasted his food and we were very impressed.”
Of the legacy dishes that are untouchable, Kafcsak says that’s precisely how they should be.
“There are a few dishes I can’t touch, but there’s no reason to change them; they’re delicious.”