Patrick Lavery says he likes to see people "fat, happy and wanting some more." The chef at the classic Americana bar Jackalope Jacks has been slicing, dicing and frying for a little over a year now and considers the bar to be "a great atmosphere with killer draft beers and plenty of wide screens." A very comical Lavery moved to Charlotte back in '82 and got his culinary credentials at Central Piedmont Community College in '90. "I'm not pretentious about what I do," he says. "It's a team effort in a kitchen. I didn't learn this craft to have a title bestowed upon me; I did it because when I first started cooking, something just clicked." In fact, he mentioned on several accounts that the best part about his job is his ability to play with fire and knives on a daily basis. "It's the closest I could get to being a pirate," Lavery says with a laugh.
Creative Loafing: What, besides playing with fire and knives, do you love about your job?
Patrick Lavery: You get to work with and meet great people. I've had the opportunity to learn from some very talented chefs and restaurateurs. The immense satisfactions of someone taking a bite of food you've prepared — they drop their fork, eyes roll back and then come the "mouthgasm."
As someone who is "all about food," what interests you about it?
My mom's Sicilian, so I grew up around food, but kind of fell into the culinary arts. There wasn't any Food Network or Internet, no Top Chef. I just started flipping burgers and progressed from there; it eventually led me to culinary school at Central Piedmont. It definitely wasn't glamorous. To me [culinary art is] one of the only art forms that incorporate all five senses. At Thanksgiving and Christmas when my family and our friends are together, I spend at least one day shopping for food, two days cooking, so we can have a day of feasting. It's great when you knock a home run and everyone is so full you got to force dessert on them. I get my very young nieces and nephews involved; they help me prep. My sisters are amazed at what I can get them to try to eat for the first time. You ever see a 4-year-old enjoy an olive? That's great!
You serve Americana but you're big into sushi. What is your favorite type of sushi roll?
I like them all, but when I go to a new place I always get a spicy tuna roll. To me, it's a good judge of how well they do things since everybody has them on their menu. Hands down, my favorite place for sushi is Cathy and Jackie Chen's New Zealand Café. It doesn't get any better. It's one of the few restaurants I've eaten at that I've never had any kind of bad experience. They are there every day and the staff is incredible.