Getting to Know Executive Chef Jeff Heaviland

Jeff HeavilandGetting the chance to have dinner at Peterson’s Restaurant was simply not enough.  I also had to meet the man that made all of that food possible.  The executive chef at Peterson’s is a graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu and it truly shows in every dish that is brought to the table.  He is also a huge Indianapolis Colts fan.  I will not hold that against him as I really wanted to pick his brain on what goes into every dish and his motivations for becoming a chef.  For a man that works as much as he does and is put under the stresses of a fine dining restaurant, he also is a gentleman to boot. His personality matches the quality of his food and I highly recommend that the next time you are in Peterson’s you ask to meet him.  You will not be disappointed in anything Chef Jeff Heaviland brings to the table.  Sit with me as I am happy to introduce you to Chef Jeff.

How long have you been a chef?

I have been here for seven years as of today, actually.  I went to culinary school and came back to Indy to get hired here.

When did you first realize you wanted to become a chef?

I was about nine years old.  I always cooked with my grandpa.  He cans all his own vegetables and makes all of his own soups.  He  makes everything from scratch; still does.

Where have you worked at before here?

Subway, actually. I was fourteen and worked there for three and a half years.  The only reason I quit is because I went to culinary school.

Explain your experience at Le Cordon Blue?

It was a good school.  The instructors were really talented.  There were a few certified executive chefs from different teams.  There were a lot of older chefs that have been around.  The education there was good and they were really strict.  If you were not there at the time class started you were not getting in.  You had to be fully dressed as well.  It was all around a really good school.  Culinary school is good for a start but you learn more in the industry than you do in culinary school.

What is your favorite item on the menu?

Right now probably the trout.  The sea trout is left with the skin on and is served with brown butter and caramelized pearl onions.  It is all around a great dish and is really good on top of that!

Did you write the menu here?

Most of the dishes on there now are mine.  We change the menu twice a year around April and then around September.  We change all of the fish dishes.  However, the scallops stay the same. If we changed that dish people would freak out. People come in and order that every time they are here.  For the most part most of the dishes that are on there are mine.  They have changed over the years since I have been here.  There are a few family items on there as well from the Peterson’s.

What is the last movie you saw?

I just saw Saw IV and the Michael Jackson film.

Where are you originally from?

I am originally from Indianapolis.  We moved up to Thorntown and I went to Western Boone.

If you could only prepare one item for the rest of your career.  What item do you choose?

I had it for dinner last night.  A turkey bagel sandwich, with cream cheese, tomato, and jalapenos.  But I would want to make multiple sandwiches.  I want to switch up my sandwiches a bit.

Do you eat a lot being a chef?

Yeah.  I actually went on a diet finally.  I got up to 280 pounds.  I am down to 190.  When I first started here I was 160.  After a year of being here I was 270. It is just from tasting things.  You make a soup, you have to taste it.  You still have to taste everything.  You have to taste a feature.  Its tough.  You have to try to watch what you eat.  It is not easy.  At the end of the night we will have a piece of meat, cover it in béarnaise, and then, well it is not healthy to eat.

Who came up with the nickname Chef Jeff?

There is a cartoon that had a character like that.  I do not remember his name.  And, well, it is obvious and it rhymes.  As executive chef they call call me Chef.  We all have nicknames.

I always let the musicians get the last word.  Why not you?

This is like home away from home.  All of the line guys that I have been with here I have been with for seven years.  Rich, the prep guys.  They are like family when you are not at home.  You have to have people here that are like family.  When I am not here I have a son and a wife and I hang out at the house and try to enjoy life.

As a bonus to all of you I also took the chance to sit and speak with the Peterson’s pastry chef.  She came out first, as Chef Jeff made some final dishes in the kitchen, and I had the chance to get to know her a little better as well.  So, it is my pleasure to also introduce you to Jamie Edmondson.

How long have you been a chef?

I have not graduated yet.  I graduate in May. I have been working in restaurants since I was 16.

Where are you going to school?

I go to Ivy Tech, downtown.

So what does pastry chef actually mean?

I am in charge of all the baked goods.

What is your favorite dessert?

On the menu I would say the apple strudel.

What is your favorite item to prepare?

(Thinks) I enjoy making them all.  I think the Pot de Crème.

What is your favorite TV show?

Top Chef; OK, Project Runway.  I am pretty excited about Lifetime.

Do you eat a sample of everything you make?

Yes, definitely. Quality control. (Laughs) Everyone else gets to try it as well if it is on the menu.

Do you write the dessert menu?

Four of them I did.  The next menu I will hopefully write all of them.

How long have you been at Peterson’s?

I have been here for one year this past September.  I have only been in Indianapolis since August of last year.

Where are you originally from?

I am from Evansville.

If you could only make one dessert item for the rest of your career what would it be?

Can it be a genre of food? It would be a dinner that my grandma makes.  It would be a wienerschnitzel and her German potato salad.  She learned to cook this in Germany.