Publisher Dale L. Winspeare, III
talks food with CRU's Leading Lady Chef Erin Zircher
What are we eating today?
We chose for you to have the Tuna Fruito. One of the things we're getting now locally is Shiso from one of our local farms which is really cool, and the other thing is the tuna right now is coming from local fishermen that go way out probably 50 miles and come back with these beautiful big eye tuna, so that is what we are featuring now. And then our Lobster Roll, we make everything in house, we probably go through 400 pounds of lobsters a day.
Do you sell a lot of lobsters? Is that money dish?
Yes, we sell a lot of lobsters and we also sell a lot of oysters. I gave you the Pocomo and they're from a local oyster farmer; his name is Steve bender.
Are you a farm to table restaurant?
We try to be as much as we can. It has actually been really tricky this summer since there's been a lot of rain so the tomatoes are really late in getting going. We still haven't seen much tomatoes from the local farms. The corn is just now getting going too and its a little watery, so with all the rain it is not as intense but we try to be as much as we can.
I found in my research on the internet, so we know its all true,
that you began your career in Chicago. Are you from Chicago?
I am from Peoria, so I'm Central, and I did work in Chicago for a while.
Do you go back to Chicago at all?
I'm actually going back for the first time in a couple of years, this fall, It was My fiance's birthday the day we opened the restaurant this year, so I didn't get to spend his birthday with him and he and I are both cubs fans so we are going to go to a Cubs game and go out to eat. I think we're going to go to the Publican, oysters and pork, sounds pretty awesome, can't go wron
How did you end up here on Nantucket?
I went to cooking school in Vermont and then I worked in Boston for two years.
Where did you work in Boston?
I worked in a restaurant in Cambridge called Oleana then I was kinda tired of being in the city so I went to work in France. I worked on the nothern coast of France for six months and thought I would have it all figured out and I still had no idea where I wanted to go, so I came to Nantucket for one summer and 10 years later I am still here.
How did you make the jump from Cambridge to France
One of my chefs from culinary school was French, and he knew I just kind of wanted to do something and go somewhere and figure things out and he said I have a chef friend you can go work with in France. The funny circle of the story is where I worked in the North of France on the coast was a very similar climate and very similar seafood to what we have here in Nantucket.
Did you also work in Morocco, Spain, Turkey...
Yeah - I traveled a lot!
Have you found yourself in your travels? What was the desired outcome?
You know just to eat and taste and learn and grow as a chef, experiencing what other people do and how they do it and coming back and put your spin on it is really important
Can we taste a bit of your travels in what we eat / how would you describe your style?
You know I try to be true to Nantucket and try to be true to the vision that we have for Cru
Tell me about the visions for Cru.
I think it is simple and its clean and its locally sourced and really really fresh. But I do sneak in some spices and a lot of fresh herbs in everything I do but I try not to be intimidating to people. If I was on vacation on Nantucket I would want oysters and lobsters and simple and delicious and fresh, so I try to offer that...
Do you ever get direct feedback from diners?
Yes they are very frank with us, usually its really good and sometimes not. But you know its great, We are in the customer service industry and we want people to be happy.
There's a chef in Dallas that states clearly "this is the menu….no change to the menu"; How does the feedback get incorporated into what you do?
I would love in a different lifetime that I would be that chef, but right now I try not to be that Chef. If someone wants something and that's what they want I try my best to make that happen for them. You want people to leave happy and feel like we've catered to them. I am a people pleaser.
How did the ownership group come about; did you know each other prior to CRU?
Yes I have previously worked with Jane and Carlos, and we all have just a great rapport and work well together we have a strong mutual respect for one of other. But we all have our individual thing, its really well divided. I work the kitchen, and Jane runs the reservation and the staff and Carlos handles the cocktails and the wine. So we all have our areas which is nice because no one is crossing into the anyone else's area. You're free to do what you do and do it the way you want to and it's worked out really well.
Does the position change every year?
It's only our second year, so we're still evolving and trying to figuring out what works and what doesn't work
Are you a James Beard award winner?
No, I cooked at the James Beard house for the first time this past winter. It was great, it was so much fun. It was a blast (DW - Felt like you arrived?
) Yeah, it was cool - I had cooked there before with Ana (Sortun) from Oleana
in Cambridge. It's just a lot of fun and it's really cool to be in his home. So many people have been there before, it's really awesome.
Is there a chef community on the island? Do you know the chefs from the other restaurant/do you get together and talk shop?
Yeah and borrow things, that kind of thing - vent to one another. There's definitely a close knit community
When you eat out where do you like to go, what is your favorite spot here on the island?
We go to Pie Pizza a lot - it's really good, really thin crust pizza
Chefs that impress you on the island that you'd like to shout out?
My gosh, there are so many - The Nantucket Pasty Co., love it!
My good friend Mayumi (Hattori) is down at Straight Wharf, is probably one of my favorite chefs in the whole world and she's my neighbor here so that works out pretty well.
What about her makes her your favorite?
She's really simple, clean and fresh; her food is just gorgeous. I wouldn't label it with a particular ethnicity; she just cooks "Nantucket food" as how I feel in my head is and should be....