Revival Kitchen in Reedsville gets right down to the root of the word. Derived from the Latin verb “vivere,” meaning “to live,” and “re,” meaning again, a revival is going on in Reedsville that is momentous, not just in the restaurant but also the town; and not just for the inspired chef but also for the community of farmers whose products are fashioned into culinary works of art. Hallelujah!
Executive chef Quintin Wicks, 39, and his business partner and fiancée Liz Hoffner, 34, were visiting Wicks’ parents in McClure two years ago from Colorado when they did some reconnaissance on the Main Street Market at the corner of North Main and East Logan in downtown Reedsville.
“We heard about it from a friend and decided to poke around the building, and saw that the wine bar was open but no restaurant was operating,” Hoffner said. In Colorado, Wicks worked in fine dining at Splendido in Beaver Creek and Hoffner worked as a travel agent specializing in high-end ski vacations. They weren’t exactly shopping for a place to open a restaurant, but both had been in business long enough to recognize an opportunity and to act on it.
For Wicks, it was a homecoming. He grew up in Lewistown, graduating from Lewistown High School in 1995 before heading to Pittsburgh for culinary school. His parents were Long Island natives who moved to central Pa. for work and a change of pace. They raised their four sons in the heart of Amish country, traveling to New York to see relatives and to sample city life in small bites. His parents were not big foodies, but their son Quintin was at an early age.
“I was always the one who wanted to go to Chinatown and to the markets. If I saw snails, I had to try them, which was strange for a boy from Mifflin County,” said Wicks, leaning comfortably on the rough wood ledge outside the entry to the kitchen that he built to his height, affording him a commanding view of the dining room.
Wicks attended the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts and worked at Casbah under chef Bill Fuller from 1996 through 1998 just as the Big Burrito Restaurant Group was hitting its stride. Fuller mentored the young cook, encouraging him to care more about building his skill set than taking a less interesting job for more money. Fuller also connected him with a chef in Portland who needed help in a fine dining restaurant.
“I was 22 and fell in love with the Northwest and everything edible from the region. It was my first wild mushroom experience and I went out and gathered a pickup truck full of chanterelles and then took them back into the city. I’d sell them to the chef that I worked for and then he’d pay me to clean them for him,” said Wicks.
The Portland restaurant was part of the Aramark brand, a conglomerate that manages food service entities of all types, from stadium food to hospitals to higher-end establishments. Wicks soon found himself at the fine dining restaurant in Alaska’s Denali National Park.
“I learned there that I did not want to be a part of a corporate kitchen,” said Wicks, grinning. “After Alaska I ended up in Vail because I wanted to go snowboarding. I had worked under a sous chef in Portland who spent his winters at Splendido in Beaver Creek, and I went to work there.”
A yearlong stint in Melbourne, Australia, followed but the wages were low and housing expensive. Big Sur, Calif., was next, with work at two luxury hotels, the Ventana Inn and the Post Ranch, before returning to Colorado and staying put for 15 years. Wicks worked at a new restaurant, Larkspur, for three years and then left with the chef de cuisine from there to open a restaurant called Juniper that had about 60 seats but a small kitchen. It wasn’t too long before he found himself back in the expansive and dynamic kitchen at Splendido under executive chef David Walford. He worked there for nine years.
“There was no room for advancement,” said Wicks. “They weren’t opening any other restaurants and the guy ahead of me wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. We did lots of special dinners with celebrity chefs, sponsored by Food & Wine magazine, so it was exciting to work with people that I saw on the TV cooking shows — Eric Ripert, Laurent Tourondel. It was a great experience.”
But the cost of living in that tiny town is high.
“The costs are prohibitive,” said Hoffner, who attended Drexel University for hotel restaurant institutional management and has her degree from the University of Missouri, “and I always wanted to have my own place.”
The couple returned to central Pa. in February to check out the property and decided that the bones were good and that it just needed a little elbow grease. They designed the interior, using reclaimed barn wood and some repurposed tractor seats as stools, and did the renovation work themselves with Wicks’ high school friend, Kevin Stewart, who came down from Vermont. The trio lived on air mattresses above the restaurant last summer while they readied for opening on July 31. Currently they share the space with Seven Mountains Winery, which offers a tasting bar in the rear of the room. Wicks’ sous chef, Jacob Andersen, 22, is a Lancaster-area native who interned at Splendido under Wicks and made the trip back east to open the restaurant.
Revival Kitchen is a farm-to-table restaurant that makes use of the abundance of the local farms. The couple met Moses Hostetler, a young Amish man who runs Hostetler’s Naturals farm, when they first arrived in the area and scouted around for purveyors.
“I was surprised to meet Moses, who everyone was telling me about, because I expected an older man with a long white beard. Moses is 28 years old, with a great attitude about farming. He uses no synthetic chemicals or fertilizers and is non-GMO, unlike many other Amish growers. We try to support whatever he has coming out of the ground. He gave me a seed catalog in the winter and told me to let him know what he should plant.”
Hostetler’s Naturals also sells from their farm at 260 Stage Road in Milroy, and on Route 655 on Wednesdays, on the right hand side of the road near the dairy store on the way to Belleville from Route 322.
Hoffner enjoys interacting with Hostetler, going out to the farm on Mondays and planting garlic or picking vegetables.
“He was the first farmer that we met, and we hit it off right away. He told us that he had a dream that somebody was coming to town who would use his products and promote the farm. We have become good friends,” she said.
Revival Kitchen uses many other local growers and producers — Brummer Farm for their potatoes, Village Acres for produce and sourdough bread that is baked at McBurney Manor in a wood-fired oven. Jim Byler’s Sequoia Farm goat cheeses are on the menu, his fresh chevre a highlight of the spring items. But Wicks’ real joy is foraging for wild food and putting it on the table. Ramp season is currently underway and those heady harbingers of spring will be featured along with young nettles.
“I’ve worked in many upscale kitchens where anything could be shipped in FedEx overnight, but what each one of those chefs wanted was what we have right here,” Wicks said. “From a chef’s perspective, this is a goldmine. Not in February, but now, and in the next few weeks we will have more and more available and it really does come from right down the street.”
Living the dream? Yes; both Moses’ and their own, according to their hashtag, #chefsdream. Amen.
Anne Quinn Corr is the author of “Seasons of Central Pennsylvania,” of several iBook cookbooks (”Food, Glorious Food!” “What’s Cooking?!” and “Igloo: Recipes to Cure the Winter Blues”) that are available for free on iTunes. She regularly posts to the blog HowToEatAndDrink.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Revival Kitchen, 6 N. Main Street, Reedsville
Hours: Open for dinner 4:30-9:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday
Info: www.revivalkitchen.com. Wine is available for purchase at Seven Mountains Wine Bar in the back of the dining room or you can BYO beer or spirits. (No outside wine)
View their current menu online at www.revivalkitchen.com and be sure to check out their very active FaceBook page for menu updates.
2 cups of morel scraps (trimmings or not so nice looking pieces)
1 clove of garlic — smashed
1/2 cup olive oil
1 thyme sprig
2 tablespoons good sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook morels in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until browned. Add smashed garlic and cook for a few more minutes until garlic caramelizes. Add thyme, vinegar and soy and remove from heat. Remove the thyme stem and discard. Transfer to food processor and pulse until the morels are finely chopped but not pureed. Whisk in remaining olive oil and use on pretty much anything.