The Post Journal

Title: Forte Restaurant owner Age 35 Hometown Staten Island By Jason Rodriguez,

Margaret Kaltenmeier

Ask the owner of Forte about what is good about Jamestown, and she will tell you opportunity. Peggy Kaltenmeier can share personal experience from New York City, Boston and the resort area of the Poconoss, but in 2006 she decided her future lay in this corner of Western New York. The Staten Island native said her entry into the local retaurant scene was made easier with the help of Forte’s existing owner, Todd Singleton, as well as a colleague who handled the kitchen. She said her acquisition of Forte was more involved than just getting a liquor license transferred in her name.“In the beginning there were so many more issues,” Miss Kaltenmeir said,“What silverware do we buy? What chairs do we get? How can we set up this space so it is functional and looks good? How can max out space so we can get the most amount of people in here?” But as Peggy’s Forte will celebrate it’s five-year anniversary this october, she said now it is more about “maintainging what we have built, because it is working for us.” As an undergrad in Boston for film production, she began serving tables to make ends meet and a potential career path opened up that was very different from her academic course- work.“When I moved to the Poconos, I served at two different restuarants,” she said. “One was more corporate and one was more fine dining, with an eclectic kind of food... eclectic in it’s cuisine.” Miss Kaltenmeir she retains an appeal for diverse taste that is now a centerpiece fo Forte.“I love food. I love flavors I can’t get all the time,” she said, adding her restuarant is home to a duality of atmosphere. Patrons can enjoy casual dining at the bar, and around the corner one quiet, up-scale Tables. Forte is eclectic defined: including it’s popular sushi menu and new items such as curried peach pork, spicy cajun steak and crab. Miss Kaltenmeir said Third Street features an array of activities, from dining, arts and theater acts, and a cooperative of business owners that encourage each others’ success. Beyond her doors, Miss Kaltenmeir said she sponsors the Local Music showcase at Infinity Performing Arts. Forte has also been a longtime sponsor of Centaur Stride, a Westfield-based facility that provides therapeutic care via horseback riding. After living in a number of densely populated places along the East Coast, she said there is potential to grow in Jamestown. Miss Kaltenmeier also said opportunities are much more accessible than in “I don’t think people who live here realize how much easier it is to do something like this,” she said.“I would never be able to do this in Boston, and I would never be able to raise enough money to financially risk a restaurant anywhere else.”

Flavor of the Week - Forte

JAMESTOWN, NY - In music Forte means loud or strong and the food at Jamestown’s Forte is an equivalent to that description. It offers patrons a dining experience that links itself directly to the events at Reg Lenna Civic Center. Being next door to the center guests can stop in before or after to enjoy a meal that is representative of the restaurant’s name.

Ask the owner of Forte about what is good about Jamestown, and she will tell you opportunity. Peggy Kaltenmeier can share personal experience from New York City, Boston and the resort area of the Poconoss, but in 2006 she decided her future lay in this corner of Western New York. The Staten Island native said her entry into the local retaurant scene was made easier with the help of Forte’s existing owner, Todd Singleton, as well as a colleague who handled the kitchen. She said her acquisition of Forte was more involved than just getting a liquor license transferred in her name.“In the beginning there were so many more issues,” Miss Kaltenmeir said,“What silverware do we buy? What chairs do we get? How can we set up this space so it is functional and looks good? How can max out space so we can get the most amount of people in here?” But as Peggy’s Forte will celebrate it’s five-year anniversary this october, she said now it is more about “maintainging what we have built, because it is working for us.” As an undergrad in Boston for film production, she began serving tables to make ends meet and a potential career path opened up that was very different from her academic course- work.“When I moved to the Poconos, I served at two different restuarants,” she said. “One was more corporate and one was more fine dining, with an eclectic kind of food... eclectic in it’s cuisine.” Miss Kaltenmeir she retains an appeal for diverse taste that is now a centerpiece fo Forte.“I love food. I love flavors I can’t get all the time,” she said, adding her restuarant is home to a duality of atmosphere. Patrons can enjoy casual dining at the bar, and around the corner one quiet, up-scale Tables. Forte is eclectic defined: including it’s popular sushi menu and new items such as curried peach pork, spicy cajun steak and crab. Miss Kaltenmeir said Third Street features an array of activities, from dining, arts and theater acts, and a cooperative of business owners that encourage each others’ success. Beyond her doors, Miss Kaltenmeir said she sponsors the Local Music showcase at Infinity Performing Arts. Forte has also been a longtime sponsor of Centaur Stride, a Westfield-based facility that provides therapeutic care via horseback riding. After living in a number of densely populated places along the East Coast, she said there is potential to grow in Jamestown. Miss Kaltenmeier also said opportunities are much more accessible than in “I don’t think people who live here realize how much easier it is to do something like this,” she said.“I would never be able to do this in Boston, and I would never be able to raise enough money to financially risk a restaurant anywhere else.”

“It was perfect timing,” said Kaltenmeier.“We were working for Todd and he was busy running two other restaurants and just had a baby. Ian is a great chef and I am used to running front house so we figured why not take a chance. The business was already established and had a great clientele.”

Before Kaltenmeier became owner the menu would change daily to whatever Todd got in or wanted to make.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Kaltenmeier.“But, the clients have certain expectations when they dine out. They find something on the menu they really like and they want that every time they come in.You find your favorite and your niche. I feel there is a smaller percentage of people who are up for an absolute culinary adventure. But, for a certain population of Jamestown it worked very well and we were able to use that as a springboard to build a menu that is steady.”

Now instead of having changes to the menu daily it changes every six months. Having a seasonal transition still keeps the regulars excited but also caters to the clients who like seeing new things appear on the menu.

“I like to think of it as giving customers a new map every six months to figure out where the want to live for awhile,” said Kaltenmeier.

Julie: Scheira is the new head chef that replaced Ian Anderson. She is originally from Jamestown and went to school in Pennsylvania. She’s cooked at many places in the area including Hutch’s in Buffalo and Tempo as well.

“When the position opened here she was excited about the opportunity,” said Kaltenmeier.“And, its been fantastic fit ever since. I think her food is very flavorful, concentrated and has a clean presentation that I really appreciate.”

Server Matthew Coan and Grill master Mike Conroe are also integral members of the staff. Coan works on all the design work like ads and the menu. Conroe is the grill master. He is in charge of the massive amount of steaks that leave the kitchen.

The dining experience at orte is a unique mix of many flavors. Kaltenmeier describes the cuisine at Forte as “eclectic American,”The staff at Forte have certain flavors and ethnic foods that they really enjoy and want to share with people. The cuisines range from Thai, Indian, Mediterranean, South American, Mexican and more.

“It’s a large sushi menu,” said Kaltenmeier.“There is a lot o repetition of ingredients but it’s put together in ways that might not be expected at a normal sushi place.”

One page of the menu features traditional options like the California and Philly Roll. But, the specialty section features rolls that were designed by each one of the employees.

“It’s like an extension of ingredients and preparation that we like and us trying to share that with the customer,” said Kaltenmeier.

One example is the Haku - Taka Roll that includes cucumber, avacodo and roasted red pepper rolled inside out and wrapped in tuna. Another is the Neko Roll that includes Old Bay and malt vinegar surimi with cream cheese and avocado, tempura battered. Or, the Dynamite Roll that features salmon, tempura flakes and spicy pepper mayo

“We really try to focus on quality,” said Kaltenmeier,“The demand for sushi has grown tremendously since we’ve been here. So, we focus on having fresh high grade salmon and tuna while the other ingredients are prepared in some way whether it’s broiled, bloiled or deep fried.”

While enjoying the sushi Kaltenmeier recommends trying Wakami Seaweed Salad or the Edamame. Steamed in their pods, the soybeans are tossed in sesame oil and sprinkled with kosher sea salt. Thursday nights are great nights to give the sushi menu a try as there are specials on platters during that evening.

The next change to the menu will occur in October. There are about five weeks left to enjoy the summer selection. But, even though the menu changes every six months there are items that remain on it throughout the year. The Mac and Cheese Boat is an item that guests can always find on the menu Gorgonzola, Asiago, and Sharp Cheddar cheese. The crab cakes will also remain on the menu. It is home made version of the classic comfort food dish that is baked with Gorgonzola, Asiago, and Sharp Cheddar cheese. The crab cakes will also remain on the menu, they are a hand crafted blend of crab, onions, peppers and essential spices served with red cabbage slaw french fries and spicy remoulade.

The summer menu focused on using fresh vegetables and ingredients from local farms. The menu is light- ened up for the summer and gets a little more comforting during the Winter season. There will be more risottos and pastas.

After enjoying one of the unique menu items guests can try something of the daily dessert menu. Rhinehart is also in charge of the desserts and prepares something new every day. All the desserts are handmade with fresh ingredients. He recently made Key Lime curd tart with star fruit on top with Hawaiian sea salt. He has also made carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and homemade caramel sauce.The desserts will also become seasonal with additions like pumpkin flan.

Kaltenmeier believes it is important to utilize local ingredients and support other local businesses. So, at every table there is Borsari seasoning salt from Lakewood. It goes well with olive oil and bread on a steak or on chicken. There is even work by local artists decorating the walls. The art changes with the menu and the next artist featured will be David Grice.

Forte is a fine dining experience unlike any other in the area. It ofers guests culinary creations inspired by a wide variety of cuisines as well as a upscale atmosphere in which to enjoy the meal. Being that the restaurant isnot large in size and is located in downtown Jamestown next to the Reg Lenna Civic Center guests are greatly encouraged to make reservations. Forte is located at 114 East Third Street in Jamestown and is open from 5p.m. to 9p.m. Tuesday through Saturday with the lounge staying open until later for cocktails. For more information call 716-484-6063 or visit www.fortetherestaurant.com

Lamprey: Interview with Head Chef Julie: Scheria

In the four years since Forte was purchased by its former staff and transformed into one of the best, and most loved, restaurants in Chautauqua County, it’s had but one chef. The estimable Ian Ander- son recently moved on, but stepping up to the restaurant’s hallowed stove is Julie: Scheria, a young cook with some ideas up her own tunic sleeves. These’s been a perceptible shift in tone to the nightly specials over the last month or so, and in October Julie: launched a terrific new dinner menu for autumn and winter. Many favorites remain, and the new dishes are an exciting success. The Lamprey: wanted to know more about this new chef, and gave her a call.

The Lamprey: You’re from the area?

Julie: Scheria I grew up in Jamestown I lived here until I was 18 then went to college.

Lamprey: Was it culinary school off the bat?

Julie: Yes, but that wasn’t the plan. When I was in high school there was a demonstra- tion coming from Pittsburgh Culinary School. A guy I was in class with filled out an information card with my name and number on it, and didn’t tell me. They began calling my house, and finally my mom said, “Well, Julie:, they keep calling. You love cooking. I think we should go check it out.” (laughs) And it kind of just fell into place. I really like that it happened that way.

Lamprey: Does that ability run in the family?

Julie: Oh yeah, My mom passed away seven years ago, but she was a phenomenal cook. So were my grandmothers. They all had their own styles. And I was always the first kid with, “What time’s dinner? What are we having? Can I help?”

Lamprey: So did you finally make it to Pittsburgh Culinary?

Julie: No, I ended up going to Mercyhurst and getting my degree in culinary science. After I left Erie I worked for Food is Good, Incorporated. I was at the original Olive’s, and then the Ironstone.

Lamprey: I’m curious, what percentage of cooks in those kind of quality restaurants actually have a chef’s certificate?

Julie: It’s always pretty mixed. But I will say that when it comes to culinary schools, I haven’t worked with many students. A lot of the guys I’ve worked with just kind of fell into it. They start as a dishwasher and take control from there.

Lamprey: I’ve heard that it’s not unusual

or even s chef to start as a dishwasher, to learn the kitchen. >

Julie: Right, because it’s totally hands- on everything. You’re therre to main- ntain clean dishes, but you’re also that

second hand. You’re there to bail out the cooks when they’re getting in trouble, getting too busy.

Lamprey: Where did you work just prior to Forte?

Julie: Hutch’s, in Buffalo. It’s bistro fare with Texas feel to it. Hutch’s is know for having something for everyone. You can go there and be casual, or you can go all out and have a total fine dining experience. There’s really sweet bar, too. All brick inside, and he has old paintings hanging. Just beautiful artwork. It’s got a really good feel to it.

Lamprey: That’s what I’ve heard, but I’ve not been. How long were you there?

Julie: Four years. He also owns Tempo which is serious fine dining. Italian, so we had good gnocchi, pastas, really good steaks. I would go work there one day a week just to keep my mind working. It was nice to have the oppor- tunity.

Lamprey: Good gnocchi’s not easy.

Julie: That’s one thing I really took away from there.

Lamprey: Oh, good! So, besides being approached by Forte, what has made you happy about coming back to Jamestown?

Julie: It all started to feel right, and just came together. Moving back home and being with my family was defi- nitely in my mind. And once I met with Roger, Mike, Matt, and Aaron (the Forte kitchen crew), we instantly clicked and I felt really good about it.

Lamprey: Are you excited to try things at Forte?

Julie: Yea, it’s a growing experience. At Hutch’s it was a sous chef when I was their day off. I met with Hutch and talked about it-learning more and developing. And that’s exactly what i’ve been doing in the past month and a half at Forte. I’ve written plenty of menus before and messed around with that, and designed dishes and sent them out. But to actually make a whole menu, price it out, search out exactly what products you want to use... That’s what i’ve been doing. And I could never do it without Roger, Mike, and Aaron.

Lamprey: The new menu is really great for autumn. There’s an emphasis on Italian this time.

Julie: Yes, there is. For this one I stayed with dishes that I know I’m solid making. I didn’t want to get too crazy, being in a new environment. I wanted to be successul with it, so I stuck to my roots. But you have your nice Pacific Rim flavors in there too.

Lamprey: What was the process for coming up with your first menu?

Julie: I looked through a lot of the old ones to see what they had done. Peggy, the owner, was so helpful. As soon as I said yes to the job, the very next day I came home and there was a binder she’d put together of all sorts of recipes that she thought looked good, things that we could add to, and a three-page hand-written letter. She’s so amazing.

Lamprey: Sounds like a solid welcome.

Julie: We just put our brains together. I’d have a certain vision, and she would start asking me questions, running me through the steps and then I would change something. Typically it would be fully the chef’s choices for the menu, but Forte is unique in the way that we work as a whole team. Every- one plays their role there.

Lamprey: That would make sense. There’s always a feeling of family. How often do you plan to change the menu?

Julie: This autumn one just came out and I’m already thinking of the spring menu. It takes a while to figure out what you really want. I’m also paying attention to what sells on this one and want to kind of build off of that.

Lamprey: So there’s two menus a year, autumn and sprint?

Julie: Right.

Lamprey: Is that predicated on avail- abiliy of fresh produce? How hard is fresh to get anyway?

Julie: There are some local farms, and we’re using Chuck Gibson from Lake Country Meats. He’s really good. But, yes it is hard to get fresh. I go to Brigiotta’s as much as I can. They’re great. But locally it’s hard to get a consistent product. So I’m thinking, going throughout the winter, of get- ting a system down.

Lamprey: Are you going to be empha- sizing different ethnic cuisines?

Julie: Yes. The next menu I want to stray away from Italian. I’m not sure what we’ll head into, but it’ll have a fresh feel to it.

Lamprey: It’s interesting that James- town really doesn’t have any ethnic retaurants. I mean, not even Greek.

Julie: I know! I’m not sure i that’s because there isn’t a high demand for them at this point. I think a Greek restaurant would be great. People would go crazy for that. Mariners’ Express has a couple of things, but a true Greek diner would be awesome.

Lamprey: Classic New York Greek diner. You have the Greek dishes but also every imaginable other thing, open 24 hours a day, with good coffee.

Julie: Scheria

Julie: Yes! And even our Mexican food is very limited here. That’s another thing I’d like to get on the menu more. I love cooking Mexican.

Lamprey: Actually, I first met you at a Cinque de Mayo party a couple of years ago that you cooked for. I grew up in Colorado, and what you made was truly authentic soul-satisfying Mexi- can food. (laughs)

Julie: And Ian, he was so creative with his menus. I’ve got big shoes to fill. I’ve just been trying to slowly ease myself in. Everyone’s been hearing there’s a new person cooking. Most have been okay about it. They don’t know me, or where I’m rom. I’m just the new person. So I think a slow change is important. That’s why we did keep some of the old items on the menu, such as the tuna crisps. Things that people love I would never want to take away.

Lamprey: You seem to be pretty happy to be back in Chautauqua County.

Julie: Yeah, it’s great! I was always big on down- town, Forte, and Mojo’s, when I was living here before. But I just feel a whole lot more sense of community going on now. I really like down- town and I want to see it keep growing. I’m glad to be a part of it.