As Tyler Anderson, Jamie McDonald and A.J. Aurrichio work toward a late summer opening of Cook and the Bear, their highly anticipated collaboration restaurant in West Hartford's Blue Back Square, another local culinary talent has signed on to join their team.
Ed Jones III, the current executive chef at Firebox, will come on board as the executive chef at the "craft barbecue" eatery, which will present a mashup between Anderson's background in fine dining and McDonald's expertise in Kansas City-style smoked meats.
Anderson said Jones that he has the "perfect balance" of talent and personality for the position. "He has the right mentality and way about him in the kitchen for us, and cooking skill at the same time."
Fans of Anderson's Millwright's in Simsbury and McDonald's Bear's Smokehouse, which has two locations in Hartford and Windsor, have been sampling previews of the concept at the Simsbury restaurant's tavern. In August, Anderson and McDonald partnered to launch a weekly casual pop-up menu on Monday nights, featuring distinctive barbecue-fusion bites like a kimchi pancake topped with pulled pork, macaroni and cheese with chicken cracklings, poutine with foie gras gravy and fried green tomatoes. The a la carte options also include salads and vegetable sides made with local produce, sandwiches (French-onion-flavored burnt-end sliders, Nashville hot chicken), hearty portions of meats from Bear's smokers and decadent desserts.
The partners envision a menu similar to what they've been serving in Millwright's Tavern, but with expanded options, including a full rotisserie element, additional vegetarian choices and healthy sides. Anderson, whose restaurant is known for its locally-driven seasonal cuisine, said Jones' passion for farm-to-table cooking was another essential factor in the choice to hire him.
"Our minds think alike in that way. Together, I think we'll really be able to bring that farm-to-table to barbecue," Anderson said. "To get a chef that's interested in working that way, was very important to us."
Jones, who has been with Firebox since 2011, said he will leave that role in April and take several weeks off between jobs to travel. Once he returns, he'll be working in development with Anderson and McDonald at their restaurants in advance of the West Hartford opening.
"I obviously respect Tyler and Jamie a lot," he said. "It's a new chapter, I can learn a lot more...It seems like a really, really good opportunity. I'm pretty psyched for it."
Keep up with the restaurant's updates at facebook.com/cookandthebear.