Area chef Jamie Heydinger grew up in Mansfield, but it was Marietta that he ultimately fell in love with after moving to the city as a freshman in high school. A passion for cooking has taken the 33-year-old to many places in his career, including a four-star restaurant in Baltimore, but it was his love of the city he calls home that eventually drew him back and kept him planted in Marietta.
For nearly a year an a half, Heydinger has served as executive chef for Thrive Cafe & Catering, a Marietta catering business which has now evolved into a Front Street cafe. Heydinger brings his passion for the area into the restaurant by sourcing as much food as possible from local growers, a move that keeps ingredients fresh and bolsters the local economy.
Question: What sort of cooking did you grow up around?
The Marietta Times
Executive Chef Jamie Heydinger stands in Thrive Cafe, which opened in January on Front Street in Marietta.
Answer: I have a relatively big family. Both my grandmothers did a lot of cooking and I always enjoyed helping them with that. I always was into the cooking shows on PBS when I was a boy, like "Great Chefs Great Cities" and Julia Child. It is kind of what I was always wanting to do.
Q: Whats the first thing you remember cooking on your own?
A: Probably macaroni and cheese.
Title: Executive Chef at Thrive Cafe & Catering.
Pet: Miniature dachshund, Andi, who is named for a type of sausage.
Favorite food to eat: Foie gras.
Favorite place (besides Thrive) to eat in Marietta: Marietta Brewing Company.
Q: Where do you eat when you're not at work?
A: Out. Mostly I eat out. Although I do cook at home occasionally.
Q: When you cook at home, how does it differ from what you do at Thrive?
A: I cook really simply. I cook a lot more on my own when its summertime, so I can grill outside and not have to have dirty dishes. Summertime I can do a whole meal without getting anything dirty.
Q: When you do eat out, what sort of atmosphere do you look for in another restaurant?
A: I try to go to places that are kind of quiet, and I often try to go when it's not a busy time. Going on off hours-a late lunch at 2 o'clock or early dinner right at four or five. I have a problem eating out, I tend to observe too much.
Q: Are you critical when you eat at other restaurants?
A: I try not to be. But internally I always am. I definitely internally judge. I'll admit that. I always try to eat at local places though, as much as possible. No chain restaurants if I can help it.
Q: Where is your favorite restaurant to eat in Marietta?
A: The place I go the most would probably be the Marietta Brewing Company. I'm really good friends with the chef there. It's definitely my favorite lunch spot.
Q: What's your favorite food?
A: Foie gras. But it's been a long time since I've had it.
Q: Do you have a favorite type of cooking?
A: I'm French trained and I love French food. I also love Thai food, which unfortunately you can't get around here. That's the one thing I miss about living in a city is Thai food, the spicier the better. It's definitely what I seek out when I visit larger areas.
Q: How do you unwind outside of the kitchen?
A: I like to read. I read about anything, mostly sci-fi, nerdy stuff. I just reread Ender's Game because I saw the movie and I wanted to see how it matched up. I also watch TV. I watch Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, True Blood, all the good stuff.
Q: What's your favorite thing to do in Marietta?
A: I love it when it's summertime-to walk on the levee and walk through the parks. Just walking around town in general is one of the nicest things about this town because it's beautiful.
Q: Tell me about your professional history as a chef.
A: I started out at the Harmar Tavern. I was 15. I worked at the Marietta Brewing Company after that and at the Bridgewater Cafe, which was a local place that is now Austyn's. After that I worked at the Oak Star and Crow Bar. It was where the Marietta Wine Cellars is now.Then I moved to the east coast. Worked in a four star restaurant out there (in Baltimore).
Q: How does that compare to the smaller places?
A: I loved it. It the best job of my young career. It was just a very energetic place and money was no object. We could just order in whatever we wanted and do whatever with it. The chef was my age. He was very young. I was like 25 at the time. It was crazy. Then I worked at an Australian restaurant owned by Greek people in Baltimore. Then I came back here. I was at da Vinci's. Then I was at The Blennerhassett and then I didn't cook actually for about three years.
Q: What did you do in the meantime?
A: I went to college. I got a degree in Agribusiness-Agricultural Business Management-at Washington State (Community College).
Q: What made you decide to come back to cooking?
A: I saw an ad (on Craigslist) for a cafe that was in the works called Thrive, and I applied. We had a good interview and then they had me come back and do a cooking interview. It was like, 'Here make us two salads, two sandwiches, two entrees.' And I wowed them, and I've been with them for over a year now.
This interview was conducted by Jasmine Rogers.