Over on Jackson Avenue in downtown Knoxville, we find Kefi, Jim and Lori Klonaris’s Mediterranean restaurant rooted in classic and creative Greek dishes. And inside Kefi’s kitchen you will find Athens, Tennessee, native Chef Jared Martin.
Martin set foot in his first commercial kitchen when he was 16, serving in an ice cream shop. Six months later he shifted to cooking food, and it seems he never stopped. Martin spent time perfecting his craft in restaurants across the region, connecting with inspiring chefs and mentors along the way. But his introduction to fellow Top Chef Jonathan Gatlin 12 years ago was one that stands out the most; the two have been growing their careers side by side ever since.
For Martin, a lot goes in to creating a new dish, like the ones created for Top Chefs, but first and foremost is the season. “What kind of vegetables do I have available to me based on nature?” (Mushrooms are his favorite.) Protein—if he chooses to include it—comes next, followed by plating and efficiency of creation, an important consideration for any restaurant chef. And don’t be surprised if you hear him humming a Disney tune while he works; it helps him stay focused.
All of this comes together to create his menus. “I like to make people happy; I like to see people smile,” he says, “and that’s what has drawn me to this career.”
Prime Rib Eye
— 3RD PLACE WINNER —
Served with Blue Oyster Mushrooms, Fingerling Potatoes, Kasseri Cheese, Benton’s Bacon, Chives, Fried Kale, and Bulls Blood Beets.