Tastemakers 2021: Jack Moore Embraces New Chapter After Honing Skills at Watershed Kitchen & Bar
In 2019, Food & Wine declared that Columbus’ best food was being served at its top two distilleries. Outgoing executive chef Jack Moore is the person responsible for getting one of those restaurants, Watershed Kitchen & Bar, off the ground and shaping it into one of the city’s top dining spots. The Jeffersonville native told Columbus Monthly in early November that he is stepping away from Watershed at the end of the year to focus on his new business, Ruffle Feather Ferments, and its flagship product, Black Cap Hot Sauce. Moore says he isn’t leaving restaurants behind forever, but that it’s time to test the entrepreneurial waters. “I would love it if the next restaurant that my name is attached to is my restaurant,” he says.
More:How Chef Jack Moore of Watershed Kitchen & Bar Spent the Pandemic
Honest, Midwestern Food
At Watershed, Moore has allowed Ohio’s bounty of meat and veg to shine, all while “being himself,” by being passionate about what’s on the plate and where it came from. Moore has refused to compromise, never getting too flashy with techniques or dumbing down the menu. “The Columbus [dining] scene is very good about being everything to everyone,” Moore says. “You have tons of restaurants where you can go and get pizza, tacos, sandwiches all in the same 4-by-4 square. … I get it. We didn’t want to be everything to everyone. We wanted to be us. Come and join us while we do that.”
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Growing Black Cap
As Moore shifts focus to his small-batch hot sauce business, his priority is ramping up production. He plans to hit the farmers market scene next year and eventually hire a full-time staffer. Then, he wants to get creative. “I’ve always wanted to do a ferment box, kind of like a CSA box,” he says, his eyes getting wider. “You get four or five seasonal ferments, like a kraut, a miso, a hot sauce or whatever. … That sounds really fun to me.”
That’s the word tattooed across Moore’s knuckles—fitting for a young mechanic-turned-cook who is deft at creating big, bold flavors. But now Moore is living up to the word’s other meaning: experienced. Watershed is where he was able to learn the business side: budgeting, marketing, graphic design, managing staff. “I never really had that opportunity to have someone coach me on it, give me opportunities to fail,” he says. “And Watershed was able to do that for me. If I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t be taking this step to hot sauce, because I would not be confident that I could run a business.”
“I want to prove to people that you don’t have to be some corporate CEO to make it happen,” he adds. “You can be a tattooed high school graduate that busts his ass. That if you’re smart and you pay attention to the details, you can make this happen. Any problems along the way, from mental health to supply chain issues, there’s people to talk to about it."
Find more of Columbus' Rising Culinary Stars:Tastemakers Class of 2021
Hometown: Jeffersonville, Ohio
What did you learn during the pandemic? “I taught myself a little about farming, and the dedication it takes, by raising 300 pepper plants in the garden … with my folks. At the same time, I was learning a lot about myself internally: what’s important to me and how to handle my anxiety outside of the kitchen.”
What does Columbus need? “Honestly, I’d love to see a metal/punk-rock bar. I’m a big metal head. Or more late-night Asian noodle spots. Sometimes, I want ramen noodles at 1 a.m.”
Podcast recommendations: Andrew Talks to Chefs; The Anxious Achiever; and Brand Builder
This story is from the December 2021 issue of Columbus Monthly.