A new face is behind the buffet at Ibby’s Bistro. Jon Lowe is the new chef de cuisine at Washington University in St. Louis’ full-service restaurant. Formerly of acclaimed Clayton seafood restaurant Oceano Bistro, Lowe loves French cooking, grilling steaks (even during a polar vortex) and making granola with his 3-year-old daughter.
The Record sat down with Lowe to discuss his plans for Ibby’s, in the Danforth University Center.
What kinds of foods did you eat growing up in Kentucky?
Lowe: I come from a single-parent family, and my mom worked long hours. But every night she somehow got a meal on the table — fried chicken, meatloaf, chicken and dumplings, pot roast. There was always a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet in the oven with cornbread or home fries. Where she grew up, in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, you ate what you grew or what you slaughtered. I picked that up and learned to cook with what she had around the house.
Ibby’s boasts a long history of using cheese, meats and produce from local vendors. How will you build on that tradition?
Lowe: Whenever you put something local in front of somebody, there is a story. You learn about the farmer, the process, what goes into the food. I find all of that really interesting. So I want to expand on that and bring in even more local farmers and vendors.
What plans do you have for the menu?
Lowe: I want to get feedback from students and servers and our cooks. But I would like to add more variety, more gluten-free and vegan dishes, more seafood like salmon or mackerel. I also want to add more specials at night and at lunch. The current rotation of a la carte items is great, but if you go someplace two, three times a week, you want to try something different. In terms of the buffet, I’ve learned they had success in the past with themes — one day being French day, another day Italian. I would like to get back to that while adding my own little twist. I think we can do a combination of that with what’s popular now.
What about events?
Lowe: I’m really excited about all of the different types of food and types of events we can have here. I like the idea of having a chef demonstration, maybe a farmer’s dinner. There are so many opportunities because, clearly, people on this campus like variety. In my last job, 90 percent of the clientele ordered seafood. But here, in just my first month, I’ve done Chinese, African, Nordic — it’s awesome.