Jones Wood Foundry's Jason Hicks Presides Over a Neighborhood Pub
Pop into Jones Wood Foundry on any given afternoon or evening, and you might find a pair of neighborhood residents shuffling in for their regular table, a woman celebrating a promotion from the same perch she holds four nights a week, or a wine distributor putting away his portfolio so he can chat up the bartender while he tucks into a plate of bangers and mash. Because this is one of the few British spots in the city, it gets its share of destination traffic--but above all, Jones Wood is a neighborhood joint, a "public house," says chef-owner Jason Hicks, "where people can drown sorrows or celebrate over a beer." And that was intentional: When Hicks and his business partner Yves Jadot first opened Jones Wood Foundry, the chef says they were singularly focused on wooing the denizens of the restaurant's immediate four-block radius. Netting diners from other parts of the city was just a bonus.
See Also: Part 2 Of Our Interview With Jason Hicks
That diners beyond the Upper East Side eventually caught on, though, is unsurprising: Hicks has an impressive résumé. After the U.K. native spent his early career cooking in ski resort towns around the world, he landed a sous chef position at La Goulue here in NYC, leaving three years later to help Gerry Hayden re-work the kitchen at Aureole. After a brief hiatus from this city's restaurant scene, he returned to La Goulue as the executive chef as that team geared up to open Orsay. By that point, Hicks had his sights set on opening a British concept, tentatively called the Blue Nun, and he left La Goulue again intending to secure a space--only to be lured back by the ownership team, who promised to back him if he'd help reorganize the kitchen at Orsay.
Five years later, Hicks was still in the kitchen when the credit crunch happened. "The future at Orsay was looking bleak because I didn't want to keep doing the same thing I'd been doing for the past 15 years," he explains. So he jumped ship for the last time, heading up to Connecticut to work in a bistro, which left him time to work on his own project. He met Jadot when he did some consulting for him, and after Hicks pitched his concept, the pair immediately formed a partnership and got to work.
Jones Wood Foundry opened in early 2011, and it's been humming along smoothly since. "This is what we hoped would happen," Hicks explains. "We don't put ourselves against any other restaurants in the city. We just do what we do."
In this interview, Hicks weighs in on what he hates seeing on menus, what it was like to eat squirrel on a stick, and the obscure dish on his menu that should be a home run.
Up next, Hicks talks about a food he won't eat.