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ZZest:  The People


One of only 121 Certified Cheese Professionals, worldwide, in the inaugural class to be awarded this certification from the American Cheese Society, she has made a career of researching and finding the unique foods which she used to design restaurant menus, and is now using her culinary talent to bring over-the-top “gourmet” ingredients to both our café and your kitchen.


What can I say. Every store needs a back bone and that wonderful task is mine! Seriously though I love it. Not as much as sitting next to a creek with a nice piece of Bent River cheese and a jalapeño pepper jelly, or stuffing my face with a crazy mustard, or holding forty pounds of charcuterie. Nothing calms me more. Unless it's my straight forward, in your face, non personal bubble breaking service. I enjoy those crazy customers that love food as much as I do. “Honestly, I’m talking to you! You better get down here and have some fun with us!!”



(not to be confused with Erik)

I began my restaurant career in the front of the house waiting tables and bartending at The Redwood Room in the mid nineties. I spent a couple of years at the Smiling Moose. Then my wife and I packed up for north Dallas Texas. That is where I got the foodie bug waiting tables at a cool Mediterranean café named Sambuca with live jazz and some great food.

After a little begging, Chef Pete Nolasco let me have a shot in the kitchen. As the only English speaking cook in the kitchen it was “trial by fire.” After six months I was promoted to sous chef of the soon to open Denver location. Located in lower downtown Denver and a short drive to the world’s best skiing, it was the perfect place for me. After one year under the classically French trained Chef Jackie Lee Fields, I was promoted to head chef. I spent two years as the chef of Sambuca before I decided it was time to dive into food a little deeper. I left Sambuca for a position at The Hill Top Café in Golden Colorado, where I worked under Chef Ian Klienman, an up and coming chef in the Denver area, who was starting to get some national recognition. After two years and two kids my wife and I were ready to head back to Rochester. I’ve spent six years with Creative Cuisine (Jerry's previous restaurant group) since my return. I spent a few years at City Café before I went to help open the kitchen at 300 first and then Pazzo. After that I was off to my next adventure at ZZest. Jerry and LeeAnn have taken all of us in with their huge hearts and made us apart of a very unique restaurant experience.


(not to be confused with Eric)









Christine (left)  Christine has been an epicurean from a young age, declaring scallops her favorite food when just a tot. Growing up, she and her sisters could typically be found cooking up a storm in the family kitchen, and although time has passed, little has changed. Christine attended Xavier University, and spent over four years in events and development at Cincinnati Opera.

She most recently spent a year exploring and eating her way through Houston, Texas, and having recently arrived in Rochester, quickly made ZZest her home away from home. You can find Christine flitting around the market, dining room or cheeses, and is always glad to lend thoughtful inspiration to your next meal, gift, or event.

Steph (not Stef -- right)











My first job in the restaurant industry was making pizzas at a bowling alley when I was twelve. Since then, I have been in and out of the bar & grills, super clubs, and golf courses, along with family style restaurants. After graduating high school, trying to figure out the next step, I wanted to get more involved in fine dining or more of the culinary arts background to learn a little bit more in depth about food. I enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu, and worked my way through school. I graduated with an associate’s degree in applied science and a culinary arts degree. In 2004, I started my internship at Nosh Restaurant & Bar in Wabasha, MN. There I learned a lot about where the food is coming from. The focus was local and seasonal along with everything made in house. Eventually, I had worked my way up to sous chef, and had a variety of different tasks to keep me busy: butcher, baking, focusing on stocks and sauces, along with some desert work, ice creams & sorbets, and composing plates. Feeling like it was time to see and start something new, I had accepted a sous chef position at Sontes in Rochester, MN. The focus there was tapas, small plates, again using local where we could, and sourcing very nice ingredients or products such as Serrano hams, cured meats, and French cheeses. I was also fortunate to have Justin walk me through more of the business side of the restaurant, such as inventory, ordering, and purchasing, along with costing out plates. Another opportunity came my way as a personal executive chef at private business in Rochester, MN, located in the old Mayo Wood Mansion. There I was responsible for all meals for the week for ten to twelve residents. The type of food I was putting out was getting back into home cooking or comfort food. That lasted about a year, and due to some financial issues, the owner had or close its doors. Looking for that new opportunity, I wanted to have a lot of creative control, planning and executing the menu to share my interests and take on food. I had randomly applied at ZZest and Jerry and LeeAnn took me in, and have provided me with a great opportunity to do just that. Some things I enjoy outside of work are traveling, eating, snowboarding, golfing, along with camping and fishing in the summertime.


My name is Stef. I am an ambitious and determined girl! When I first realized that I'd found my passion for cooking, I pursued my dream and enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu at Brown College. When I graduated from there I interned at Broadstreet Cafe. I've been with the growing company ever since I was hired straight from my internship. I have worked at 300 First, Redwood Room, Newts Express, and Pi Pizza. I am currently at the job of my dreams... ZZest. I have been broadening my senses and my palette while at ZZest and I hope to learn something new each and every day! My off days are generally spent relaxing or spending some time with my friends and family.












There are those of us who pride  themselves on being wine connoisseurs; allowing their palates to detect certain aromas, and determining the finish and length of each sip. Others, feel drawn to be cheese enthusiasts, and make it their deputation to learn all they can about camemberts, manchegos, and bries.

I, on the other hand, have found my own place in determining what my expertise is on…chocolate.
I have been involved in the restaurant business for all of my life, and I have always had a hobby of loving chocolate--now it has become my job. I am the self-appointed chocolate specialist.

Working at ZZest has allowed me to broaden my horizons, not only with chocolate, but with cookies and cakes as well, of course.

Although I may sound a trite vacuous, I truly love my job and I am able to take on many tasks, so I never become bored. In the summers I oversee the patio outside, while in the winter season (AKA Minnesota’s other 9 months,) I do managerial work like a big kid.

My favorite of all -- yes, even more so than my love of chocolate -- is being able to let my creative side out. I am, and have been, studying photography in college and often times I am permitted to take pictures of the store and employees, create signs and posters, and help at least one of the owners in double checking her grammar on newsletters...

I once was a fastidious, persnickety, and chicken-nugget-devouring eater, and now, turned into an open-minded, unbiased, please-pass-the-foie consumer.

And I have also just started my own business, following my photography passion, here in Rochester called Sugar Lips Photography.  Come visit me!

Jerry (right)

I started washing dishes when I was 15 years old, in Rochester’s Perkins Restaurant. Today, I have mastered many of the toughest dishwashing techniques.

In a quest to be promoted to line cook, I left my dishwashing job at age 16, and started to cook at the, now defunct, Embers restaurant. It was there that I was taught by my manager, Mike Currie, all phases of restaurant operation, including line cooking; waiting tables; hosting; cashiering; inventories; food ordering; menu costing; sanitation; personnel hiring, training, and scheduling; and restaurant management.

I also regularly cooked breakfast, alone, for over 150 people a day. That was the deal I made with Mike to earn $4 an hour wages -- double the going rate. It was not much training towards culinary expertise, but, I am now able to organize myself and do twelve things all at once. I also further honed my skills at dishwashing.

My manager, Mike, and I eventually decided that we could run restaurants better than our employers, so, we ventured off onto our own.  In 1978, after dropping out of college with promises to my father that I’d finish "some day" and talking my father out of a lot of money (as well as his IBM retirement), we started our first restaurant, “The Bank,” in downtown Rochester.

We soon realized how much we really did not know about running restaurants, and we also found out that hundred-hour work weeks could make up for a fair amount of ignorance.

The Bank fit the 1970’s style of restaurants as a supper-club-in-an-unusual-environment, aka, “themed” restaurant. It was in the day when people ate the same steak & potatoes as they always had, but, in a “train” or an “airport” or a “cave” or a “gold mine” or some other more clever venue. The Bank was a suit & tie, classy place, that ended up falling into the category of an “occasional dining” spot -- i.e. birthday and anniversary only. The most frequent comment was “I ate there once and I really loved it!” Emphasis was on “loved it” but I only heard “once.”

In 1980 we transformed our dying upstairs lounge into a burger and beer restaurant called “Newts.” Originally, we sold tap beer for 75¢, mixed drinks for $1.25, and half pound burgers for $2. In our 70 seat bar we could sell 1000 beers a night. We sold a few burgers too.

Eventually, The Bank gave way to Henry Wellington, a name we made up, with many of the food elements of The Bank (prime rib, steaks, sirloins, etc) and some bar elements like nachos and onion rings, in a much more casual setting, complete with 2-for-1 drinks in both the afternoon and late night.  It was a cross between the then thriving (but not yet in Rochester) Bennigan’s and TGI Friday’s.  The success of both Newts and Henry Wellingtons was huge.

We then continued with other business pursuits, some successful and some not, like “Emerald Coast Ocean Products,” a wholesale / retail seafood market; “Henry Wellington of Battle Lake” a smaller version in a northern Minnesota town; “Broadstreet Café” and “Redwood Room” a very high end restaurant with a more casual cousin; “Jerry’s Diner” what the name would imply; “Henry Wellington of Bloomington IL” a huge restaurant and also my biggest business failure; “JP Zubay’s City Market” still a thriving Rochester deli; “City Café” a modernized version of the outdated Henry Wellington in Rochester; and “300 FIRST” which replaced the aging Broadstreet Café.

During that time I was also a paid consultant for several operations but most notably Walt Disney World, in Orlando, after I submitted to them a 17 page letter of complaint / job application, regarding their food service operations.  In my two year stint there I saw the “Illuminations” fireworks and laser show in EPCOT about a hundred times – and I think I cried every time. I also gained a special appreciation for “Dilbert” cartoons because I now personally know each character.

It was also at The Bank that I met my wife, LeeAnn, one of the first waitresses – and probably the best. Mike warned me not to fool around with the help, but, I refused to listen.

She shared and nurtured my passion for all things food and restaurant, and she gained a huge insight into the culinary world while I focused my efforts on restaurant management and operations. When I’d come home and ask her “what’s for dinner?” she would have to consult Bon Appetite and Gourmet magazines, Epicurious.com, and then scan through the last episode of “Iron Chef” (still the Japanese version) before she could answer.  She taught me appreciation for the world of food beyond Kraft, Heinz, and Sysco, and also taught me the need to respect food trends, so we would not become the leisure suit of the culinary world. She served a long time as Consulting Chef doing menu research and recipe development for our restaurants, as well as scouting out hard to find ingredients.

She also stayed home to raise our three kids – a feat much more difficult than restaurant operations. And did it, for the most part, single handedly, while I focused on food costs and training, in our restaurants.

After I sold my restaurant interests to Mike’s kids, I successfully retired – for the better part of two weeks. LeeAnn then insisted on following her dream to find the finest in culinary ingredients as well as a café to showcase the effective use of the best products on the planet. When a local restaurant failed the landlord contacted us and he made us an offer we could not refuse.

It is today that I spend my life now having more fun than I ever did, selling products I cannot pronounce but that I can savor and enjoy, with a wife and staff that I love and respect for their passion and drive to become the ultimate foodies. And, I still get to wash dishes every day – what could be better?!

Eventually, I did pay back my father, but, I have not finished college. Not yet a broken promise because I hope to have a few more “some days.” And I dedicate my dreams and successes to my father, Ken, who died in March 2010 – always my biggest fan, biggest supporter, and biggest critic – and my mother, Mary, who followed him six months later.

ZZest: The Store

Zest: n 1. the outer edge of citrus fruit with the most fresh, robust and intense flavor. 2. hearty enjoyment; gusto, liveliness and energy. 3.something added to impart flavor or to enhance one’s appreciation.

ZZest Market & Café: n 1. restaurant and store on the outer edge of culinary creativity, serving food and selling ingredients with the most fresh, robust and intense flavor. 2. serving food for your hearty enjoyment with gusto, liveliness and energy. 3. a market selling ingredients to enhance one's appreciation for fine food. 4. two “ZZ” for twice the zest (but still pronounced “zest”).

At ZZest we feature products that are small batch, artisan created, and handmade following traditional family methods. We try to source local farm raised ingredients as often as possible, fly in fresh seafood from the coasts, and fully utilize the ingredients that are at their seasonal best.

EAT: No other restaurant has a pantry with over 2000 ingredients. Our lunches, dinners, and take-home food combines those ingredients with the pork, beef, chicken, lamb, and produce from local farms, and fresh seafood flown in regularly from the coasts.

Our Cafe is small, and, it is very, very casual (just like the rest of our store) -- the focus is on the food.  Think of it like a 5 Star dinner in a 1 Star restaurant. We do take a few dinner reservations but we save most of the tables for walk ins, just to keep it relaxed. So put on your favorite jeans and a comfortable sweatshirt and enjoy an elegant meal without having to count the silverware.  And yes, we do have real waitresses and even bathrooms.


Go ahead ... lick you plate.  Everyone does at ZZest




SHOP: Heinz, Kraft, and Del Monte are just a few of the many brands we will never carry.  There is a such a world of flavor out there way beyond anything the big names can produce, you just have to find them -- but, we did that for you.  It's a lot easier making your meals taste great when you start with our ingredients.
• Artisan domestic and imported cheese from small farms across our country and across the world
• Olive oils from California, Italy, France, Spain and even Tunisia
• Honeys from Rochester to France and between
• Pure nut oils; imported hand salted Marcona almonds; finishing salts and glamorous sugars; imported grains and rustic pastas
• Chutneys, jams, olives, spreads, crackers, crostini, breads, preserved lemons, pomegranate molasses, fig bread
• Complete charcuterie selection including Jamón ibérico and Jamón serrano, pates, salumi, sausages, prosciutto, pancetta, and speck.
• Dairy including quark, crème fraîche, cultured butters, mascarpone, fromage blanc, and ricotta

Warning: prolonged exposure to our market may cause an acute appreciation for fine food, a frequent need to cook with only our ingredients, an increased sensitivity to "grocery store" food, and, in extreme but rare cases, the complete inability to eat food purchased elsewhere.

DRINK: Craft made cocktails, adventurous wines and micro-brew beers complement your lunch or dinner. Waters and sodas like  lemonade; rhubarb, cucumber, and lavender sparkling waters; and locally roasted coffees served in a French press.







Live ZZestfully!

   photos by olive juice studios