Jesse Newmister is a chef comfortable in many genres. Born in Terre Haute, Indiana, he yearned to break away from the regional fare. “Any cuisine that’s not German in Terre Haute is exotic,” he laughs. Newmister was exposed to Filipino and Syrian cuisines in his hometown, along with other international influences from Indiana State. After culinary school at Sullivan University in Kentucky, he worked in Charleston, then moved to Knoxville to help open the Northshore Brasserie.
In 2016, he and wife Margaret Stolfi opened the Asian-fusion Kaizen. Then in 2018, they opened the Latin-focused/Asian influenced Tako Taco adjacent to The Mill and Mine. “I’m enchanted by Mexico,” Newmister says. “Mexican food is more than most of what we in the states generally realize.” The two brought on Lucas Trombley, a Massachusetts native who grew up in Canada, as executive chef. “They needed someone who could run a kitchen and handle large-scale catering around the music industry,” Trombley says. “Catering is my forte.”
Always an admirer of the culinary arts, Trombley attended culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in New Hampshire in his early 20s. After a stint in California, he found himself working under Newmister at the Brasserie for about six years. He then spent about three years doing tour catering for major acts such as Weezer and Dolly Parton, before rejoining Newmister at Tako Taco. “Working with Jesse and Margaret has been amazing,” he says.
Over the winter, Newmister and Stolfi opened Red Panda Grocery near Kaizen. Then, in January they welcomed Nellie Marie to the world. With the new arrival, “We find time where it is,” says Newmister, sounding like most new parents. “There’s no strategy.”
Appetizer: House made blue corn tostada, ahi tuna, guajillo chili oil, peanut cilantro pesto, and gochujang mayo, paired with Mari Colline Savonesi Frizzante.
Entrée: Prosciutto wrapped barley & kohlrabi chile relleno, stewed white beans, tallegio cream, and beet pickled mustard seeds, paired with Tenute Dettori Vino Renosu Rossi
Dessert: Orange panna cotta milk cake, with toasted pepita creme and Mexican vanilla-cinnamon custard, paired with the Tako Taco House Specialty Margarita