On the Line: Behind Every Great Chef, There's a Great Chef

Cleveland has received its fair share of attention in the food world over the past decade. Michael Symon and Michael Ruhlman are household names. Even local celebrities like Jonathon Sawyer and Dante Boccuzzi make national headlines. But it takes more than a few bright stars to keep the city's best kitchens running. Whether they wear the title chef de cuisine, executive sous chef, or just plain cook, there's a whole roster of guys and gals donning chefs' whites night after night. So we thought it was time to look behind the line at the lesser-known faces of Cleveland food — after all, you never know who might turn out to be the next big name in dining.

Meet the Meat Guy

Executive sous chef Dave Treaster has worked with Doug Katz (Fire Food & Drink, Provenance and Katz Club Diner) for about decade. As the chef-in-residence at Shaker Square's Fire, Treaster's job is to run the restaurant's daily operations.

"I prefer the busy days," says Treaster, "when there's a lot of production to do, days that keep you on your toes." That's good, since his days often start early and end late.

"If it's a production day I get in around 7 [a.m.] and start doing charcuterie and stuff like that, " he explains. "Those days are usually 10 to 12 hours."

Other days, he comes in before noon to help with other production tasks or take inventory, then mans the expo station where food is "expedited" from the line to the servers, with quality checks for portion sizes, temperature, garnishes or special requests.

"And, you know, there's the brunch thing," he laughs. One of the city's most popular brunch spots, the Sunday-morning shift at Fire can be excruciating for those behind the line, who regularly churn out more than 300 plates during the four-hour period.

So Fresh and So Clean

At 46, Treaster's no spring chicken, but with years of experience under his belt and a commanding presence, getting the job done is all about efficiency.

"Fire is like no other restaurant I've ever worked at," Treaster says. "It's more organized, more professional. By far the cleanest kitchen I've ever worked in."

Every night, the floors of the open kitchen are swept, scrubbed and squeegeed clean. Just about every surface in the place is sanitized and polished weekly, a job dubbed the "deep clean."

Tired line cooks who try to get away with half-assing it learn quickly. You might not find Doug Katz behind the line at Fire every night, but he's a fixture in the front of the house most weeks and, even after a decade, still expects his high standards to be upheld.

It's up to Treaster ­­— as well as his supervisor, chef de cuisine Cameron Pishnery, and immediate subordinate, sous chef Justin Sill ­— to know what Katz wants before he ever has to ask.

"It all goes back to Doug's purpose and vision as to how a restaurant, and specifically a kitchen, should be run," says Treaster. "It's definitely on a different level." Perhaps not surprisingly, he says he doesn't mind that the job's not easy.

"It's harder but more satisfying."

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