In the Kitchen with Chef Alana Shock
Alana Shock has always loved cooking and it definitely shows at her restaurant. Her “Food of Love” is deliciously local and always imaginative. As three time winner of Best Restaurant in our annual readers poll, I thought it would be fun to visit Alana at home and see what her “other kitchen” is like. I headed to her home in Clintonville on a brisk January afternoon, where she welcomed me at the door in a bright Ohio apron.
Alana and Kevin usually cook their meals at home. Originally from Defiance, Ohio, Alana went to college at The Ohio State University, earning her degree in Philosophy and Fine Arts. She then went on to Columbus State Community College where she did the chef program. As part of that program, you have to complete an apprenticeship and she did hers at The Gourmet Market (now Spagio). She helped open and served as Executive Chef at David’s on Main. They went to New Orleans for a bit and worked at Emeril Lagasse’s original restaurant. After that, she went to Chicago where she was a corporate chef for Lettuce Entertain You. She was set to go to Spain for awhile and work there, but when that fell through, she decided to return to Columbus. And all of that led to Alana’s Food & Wine.
Alana and her husband Kevin Bertschi opened Alana’s in 1999, in the space formerly known as A La Carte, and where she had waited tables in the past. They had been doing a catering and personal chef service out of their home for a few years and had been looking for a new space to house it. They had considered a space at The North Market, but the hours they needed to have people coming and going were not going to be suitable for the space. The new space worked out wonderfully and then expanded into the restaurant.
Their home is located in Clintonville. They’ve been there about four years, and both love the originality of the home and all of the natural light. Kevin actually happened upon the home one day after an open house was ending, took a look and made an offer before Alana saw it, but she knew she would love it. One of Alana’s favorite things in her home is the original oven. It’s door doesn’t always close all of the way, but it always helps her produce delicious meals!
This day is no different as she is prepping and cooking Swiss Chard Meatballs. Made of Italian sausage (about a pound) from Flying J Farm, they are a simple mashing of just a few ingredients – Italian sausage, one large white onion diced, a handful of dragon kale chopped and Parmesan. Then they are sprinkled with flour and browned in a wok over high heat in Rivesaltes Ambré, giving them an almond flavor. For plating, she places a few in a cup and adds a delicious rich broth made from Cornish Hen bones and Parmesan rinds leftover from dinner the night before and served with a piece of crusty bread to soak up the flavors. In the winter months, she loves making casseroles, Tagines and using Cornish Hens, her favorite wild game bird. Her favorite winter desserts include nutted shortbreads and cheeses.
During the winter months, she makes and preserves many of the stocks she uses in the restaurant. It’s typically when large amounts of bones are available. During the summer they work on lots of preserving. Alana does a lot of seed saving to keep what they like to use available. Some of her home pantry essentials include: sun dried tomatoes, olives, nuts, basmati rice, coconut milk and lots of dried spices. She also has an extensive collection of vinegars. She makes her own for the restaurant. Some of her favorites include a 100 year old vinegar and a 200 year old vinegar from Italy that has not even been opened yet!
If you’d like to go, Alana’s Food & Wine is open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday from 5:00pm. Alana’s Food & Wine is located at 2333 North High Street, Columbus, OH 43202. phone 614-294-6783. For special menus and updates, like Alana’s on Facebook.
In the Kitchen joins Columbus area chefs in their home kitchen for a dish they like to make and a casual chat about their experiences and backgrounds. If you are a chef and would like to be featured, or if you’d like to recommend someone for the In the Kitchen series, please send an email to Anne at [email protected].