Chef Rocco Whalen

by Michele Pesula Kuegler | April 12th, 2012 | Chef Interviews

From Kansas City, we’re journeying approximately eight hundred miles to Cleveland, Ohio.  Moving from a city that borders the Missouri River to a city that borders Lake Erie, we continue to find restaurants with new spring menus.  Here I was able to speak with Chef Rocco Whalen, owner and Executive Chef of Fahrenheit.

Fahrenheit is a decade old restaurant, located in the Tremont section of Cleveland, that is noted for its contemporary American regional cuisine.  Another claim to fame for the restaurant is the chef.  Chef Rocco recently starred in the Food Network series, Fat Chef, and lost 130 pounds.  We were able to speak with him and learn more about Fahrenheit’s spring menu.

TT:  What do you like about spring, in terms of your restaurant?

CR:  It’s my favorite season.  I have the chance to utilize more local items:  ramps, wild mushrooms, English peas, fiddleheads, soft shell crabs, halibut.

TT:  Which is your favorite item on the spring menu?

CR:  I love the chicken tenderloin salad.  We marinate the chicken and served the salad with a yogurt dressing, which has honey and fresh herbs.  It is about two hundred calories and relates well to customers. Everyone likes chicken tenders.  If you grill the tenderloins nicely, you still get a chicken tender salad that is healthy.

TT:  Having lost 130 pounds, how have you seen changes in your cooking?

CR:  When I cook now, I don’t think of butter, cream, and salt. Instead I focus on citrus and spices.  My ideology of food has changed.  Vinaigrette can be made without a lot of oil.  More and more, I  have a light approach to the food, not messing with it too much.  I try to get under five ingredients in a dish.

TT:  Are there any other changes you’ve made?

CR:  I have added protein shakes to the dessert menu.  Made with peanut butter powder, coconut water, banana, and a few other ingredients, it is a 210 calorie treat.  With these flavors, it is a dessert option that’s very familiar and still healthy.

TT:  How many new items are on your spring menu?

CR:  There are about ten new items.

TT:  What makes your spring menu unique?

CR:  I just lost over 125 pounds, you’ll see that through my food and techniques.  If it wasn’t here a 1,000 years ago, I try not to use it.  I let the natural flavors of the food permeate with natural spices.  We still do the Fahrenheit classics, but the chef has a new drum to beat.  There are opportunities to be health conscious.  We make food that is satisfying to you at different caloric counts.  I give the diner options.

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