WEST CARTHAGE Jose R. Alvarado is well known locally for Jose OConnors, the restaurant he co-owns with partner Amiee L. OConnor, but his specialty sauerkraut has drawn the attention of California-based culinary brand Williams-Sonoma.
The big-name franchise featured his homemade sauerkraut recipe and two popular main courses made with the sauerkraut on its website and in its catalog.
So how did the Mexican-born Mr. Alvarado develop a liking for a dish thats not traditionally found south of the border?
He was just sort of brought into it, said Ms. OConnor, who has been with Mr. Alvarado for seven years. Her family grows its own cabbage. If not for that, Mr. Alvarado might never have acquired a taste for the cabbage-based side dish.
When we would come to visit, we would always come in November to partake in the harvest, Ms. OConnor said.
She said the family tradition dates back to her great-grandfather, who also was a cabbage producer.
According to the article on Williams-Sonomas website, Mr. Alvarado gathers his community to harvest 3,000 pounds of cabbage every year for a fermenting festival. But according to Ms. OConnor, Its really just the family.
After several years of using fresh ingredients, Mr. Alvarado decided it was the only way to go for his restaurant.
I decided to get rid of store-bought sauerkraut. Its much better to use fresh, Mr. Alvarado said.
Mr. Alvarado met Carthage native Ms. OConnor while working in New York City at popular French-American restaurant Kitchen 22.
I worked ... for nine years as a cook and worked my way up to chef. It was the same thing for Amiee, who ... worked her way up to manager, Mr. Alvarado said. The two took a brief break from New York City to try Boston for a year. Then it was back to New York before they moved to Carthage in 2010.
We heard Keddys was for sale, Mr. Alvarado said. Amiee grew up here, so we decided to make a business.
The chefs-turned-owners have found running their own restaurant to be a rewarding challenge. For Mr. Alvarado, one of the most cumbersome changes was accustoming himself to working in both the back of the restaurant and the front. But after taking some time to learn the clineteles staples as well as playing on various specials that appeal to Northern New York diners, the duo is finally settling into every chefs dream.
The next step?
We plan to expand, if everything goes well, Mr. Alvarado said, though he does not know when that might happen.
In the meantime, restaurateurs look to December, when Mr. Alvarados sauerkraut side dish will be matched with the Upstate Shoo-kroot and grilled reuben sandwiches.
The article and sauerkraut recipes can be found online at www.williams-sonoma.com, or in the Williams-Sonoma catalog. The fall edition was released last week.
To sample Jose OConnors menu, stop in at the restaurant at 15 Bridge St. Fall specials will be coming soon.