Food is chef Jack Braton’s art and passion, and the plate is his canvas.
Story: Theresa Campbell // Photos: Douglas Tyler
Since opening the chef-driven restaurant Turners Kitchen + Bar in downtown Leesburg a little more than four years ago, chef Jack Braton has wanted each entrée to be flawless.
“To this day, I touch every plate before it goes out and I make sure there is not a drop of oil that is out of place. It has to be perfect, it needs to be beautiful,” he says. “There is expression in every single dish.”
Food is his art.
“A carrot that is pulled out of the ground and put on the table is just a carrot. It’s no different than paint in a tube,” says the chef, who delights in expressing himself artistically with locally sourced, chemical-free produce, ancient grains, fused oils, and flavored vinegars.
“Good ingredients speak for themselves,” he says.
He’s pleased that the majority of Turners’ fresh organic produce comes from Gareth and Jessica Gentry at Bountiful Farms in Okahumpka, and Chet Blackmon at Yalaha Farms; chicken and eggs from Scott and Melanie Moore at Wholesome Conversions Farm; beef from the Seminole tribe; fresh seafood from Stokes; and heirloom grains, beans, and legumes from Anson Mills in South Carolina.
The chef loves using coarse-ground grits that were nearly extinct 10 years ago.
“When grits are with other ingredients, it brings out the best of the grits,” Jack says. “They’re in an atmosphere where they shine.” He also enjoys preparing a new trout dish. “Every time I see it, it is absolutely freaking beautiful.”
However, it takes more than “presentation” to make food artistic.
“Anybody can make a pretty dish and make it look nice,” Jack says. “Where the art comes in is the ability to combine flavors, colors, texture, aromas, and then add the visionary part to make it cohesive and have context.”
He credits God for blessing him with the ability “to taste food in my brain” and to think of ingredients that pair well together.
Like a proud parent, he’s not about to name his favorite on the menu.
“They’re like kids,” Jack says. “They’re all special in their own way and they are absolutely gorgeous.”
He says the right side of Turners’ menu is “sacred,” a place where he reserves several items to express himself. The thrill, of course, is when diners admire and savor the taste sensation.
“The cool part is hearing ‘That just blew my mind,’” Jack says.
Turners Kitchen + Bar
114 S. 5th St., Leesburg
Sun-Mon: Closed, Tue-Sat: 11am-9pm