One phrase immediately comes to mind when learning about Jessica Bauer: hard working. As the executive chef at not one, but two restaurants, Jessica spends her days overseeing the menus at two very different restaurants: Bistro 19 and Altius. Working with her longtime business partner, Josephine "B" DeFrancis, the two have carved out a niche in the heart of the Pittsburgh area's rising food scene.
Their first effort, Bistro 19, offers a fine-dining experience set within a jubilant atmosphere. Known for their excellent cocktails and a fresh-focused menu that includes Chilean sea bass, duck breast and lobster tail gnocchi, Bistro 19 has been a mainstay in the Mt. Lebanon community for ten years and is the winner of numerous awards for both its American-inspired cuisine and its top-notch wait staff.
Altius, the duo's most recent venture, is located on scenic Grandview Avenue in Mt. Washington. Voted an OpenTable 2014 Diners’ Choice Top 100 Best Restaurants in America, Altius offers a breathtaking view while serving dishes and drinks created with sustainable, organic and/or local products. The menu consists of "elevated" takes on American classics, using ingredients such as Berkshire pork, artisanal gorgonzola and grass-fed beef.
We recently had the opportunity to learn more about Jessica's background, why she is so passionate about cooking and her longstanding relationship with Land & Sea.
Where are you from originally?
Born in Pittsburgh, grew up in Lansing, Michigan.
When did you start cooking?
My first meal I ever made was Thanksgiving dinner when I was 12.
Who was your mentor?
I worked under a chef at Boca Raton Resort, Greg Waters. He taught me a lot about running a kitchen and trusted me to do a lot on my own.
What are you known for?
I always try to make food approachable. Something you recognize, but with a twist.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
Pleasing people. Food makes people happy.
What is your favorite fish to work with? Why?
Any bass because it is usually tender and goes with every preparation.
What do you do for fun/share a day off for us?
(When) it's football season, my days off consist of football!
Why do you work with Land & Sea?
I've worked with the company as long as I've been back in PA. I'm very loyal, especially to a company that treats me well.
Three things always in your refrigerator/pantry at home?
Butter, onions and cheese. Seems simple, but I put those things in everything!
Favorite book/movie/TV show?
I love NCIS! And the classics: Dirty Dancing, Breakfast Club!
How do you want to be remembered?
As a good person, someone who cares. Not so much about my skill, but that I made an extra effort because I care.
What is your favorite/signature dish?
Chilean sea bass: rice-wine marinated, horseradish encrusted, macadamia nut basmati, Napa slaw.
Any ingredients you won’t work with?
There are ingredients that I personally don't like: saffron, truffle. I have to use them because other people enjoy them, but I (also) try to stay away from cheap, over-used items like tilapia or processed foods.
Favorite part of working in the Pittsburgh area?
I love the loyal guests we have, people I know what they like and they know what to expect from us.
If you could cook for anybody in the world, living or dead, who would it be and why?
My family. That is really who I like to cook for, but never get the opportunity anymore!!