Chef Jonathan Bardzik Talks Keeping The Spice Alive With His Hot Hubby

Credit: Sam Armocido

Two bears, one kitchen. What happens? A good time indeed.

Openly gay chef Jonathan Bardzik has become one of the biggest culinary stars in the D.C. area over the past couple of years.

Credit: Jonathan Bardzik

His wonderful cooking abilities has landed him on many television programs, booked him several gigs across the country and earned him hundreds upon hundreds of fans who want to taste what he’s cooking. And honey, it’s freaking delicious.

Chef Jonathan chatted with me at Instinct about the latest and greatest in culinary trends for this fall, his transition to the small screen and how he keeps the spice in his relationship alive so many years in. Woof indeed. 

What’s been going on in your bustling culinary career?

I’m working on a new book, new recipes, I’ve made over 60 live appearances already this year from farm markets to TV morning shows and I’m about to film my first television series. It is nonstop and I could not be having more fun!

Credit: Martha FitzSimon

I know you and your adorable husband Jason celebrated your anniversary recently. Did you do anything special? 

We did! This was our 10-year wedding anniversary so we wanted to do something special. This spring my parents invited me to join them on a trip to Paris. At the last-minute Jason booked a flight to fly over for the weekend. We joined some friends at their country home for a weekend of sightseeing, cooking and relaxing together and finished the weekend with a walk-through in Paris with my parents and then a quiet dinner together on our own.

Let’s talk fall food trends. What do you think will be the biggest thing we’ll be seeing at restaurants and what should we not expect to see on the menu?

Now that vegan food has made it into the most mainstream of the American mainstream – fast food – I think it’s a safe bet we’ll be seeing a lot more plant-based options out there. Delicious, plant-based foods go hand in hand with the continued expansion of our international palate into the Middle East and Southeast Asia with the popularity of spices like Za’Atar and Laotian restaurants joining Thai and Vietnamese.

What will we not see? For me there can never be enough food that’s focused on the fundamentals of good ingredients that are well prepared. Vegan “burgers” are a food engineering achievement, but I can keep busy filling my plate with so many options that are plant-based by starting with the plants not looking for substitutes for the meat. Let’s eat all those foods at their very best.

Credit: Jonathan Bardzik

Biggest and most important question: are you pro pumpkin or anti pumpkin? 

I love pumpkin so much! Not pumpkin spice – although those warm fall spices bring me great joy as the weather turns colder – but real pumpkin. Pumpkin was an important food crop in the US about 100 years ago until it fell out of fashion. Pumpkins found new life as Americans widely adopted the Irish immigrant tradition of carving large vegetables into lanterns around a fall holiday.

Because of that we bred pumpkins that are easy to carve – think even, round and thin walled – and look great with bright orange coloring. Unfortunately, they don’t taste very good. So, look for those fun and funky pumpkins that Martha Stewart is putting out on her porch this year. Those were developed as food and they taste great! I love savory pumpkin dishes like stews, quiches and quesadillas even more than the sweet dishes we know so well.

Credit: Martha FitzSimon

Do you have a favorite fall dish to cook for your hubby and loved ones?

You’ll find lots of pancetta, sage, fig-infused balsamic vinegar and whole roasted chickens on my table in the fall. My favorite foods though are the fresh produce of the farms. Lots of root vegetables, Brassicas including broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts and Bok choy and all the apples and Asian pears.

I love making a pot of soup with homemade stock that was slowly simmered filling the house with its warm fragrance. Everything from quick and simple Caldo verde – Linguiça sausage, kale and potatoes – to a pumpkin and beef stew rich with a little red miso paste. With a fire in the pit out back and a warm meal around the table it makes city living feel like a night in the country where I grew up.

Are there any other openly gay chefs that you would like to collaborate with?

I’d love to hit the kitchen with Michael Twitty, another DC culinary figure. His work on the connections between African food traditions and American southern cooking is so rich and inspiring. I’ve had the great pleasure several years ago of having Art Smith in my kitchen for a night of new recipe testing. He is an inspiration as a chef, a businessman and a personality and I’d welcome the opportunity to spend more time with him cooking and learning from his experience.

I am also enjoying connecting with DC’s LGBTQ food community including folks like Daniel Liberson who is creating wonderful vinegars (and some amazing soy sauce I just got to use at a farm market demo yesterday!) with locally sourced – both grown and foraged – foods. We’ve talked about getting into the kitchen sometime soon to play with his vinegars and create some new dishes for fall at the farm markets.

Credit: Jonathan Bardzik

Should we expect to see you on a future season of Top Chef or maybe writing another cookbook for the masses to enjoy? 

 Funny you should mention that…This fall I am filming an 8-episode cooking show. It will air next spring on Here TV! and is being co-produced with Bear World Media. I’m so excited to share farm-fresh, seasonal food and a feeling of deep connection – with the food we eat, the people who produce it and the people we share it with.

I am also working on a new book about food and joy. As I look around, I see the need for more joy in our lives. Not another pumpkin spice something (although enjoy every bite!) but the real joy of procuring, preparing and sharing food with the people we love – and that is perhaps most important when we are at a table for one.

You can learn more about Jonathan by clicking on his website here.

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