Chef Gavin Jackson took the helm in the kitchen of Watersview Restaurant late last month. Jackson served the past 9 years as Executive Chef and Clubhouse Manager at the Henderson County Club, before accepting a position at Watersview.
A Raleigh native, Jackson developed a passion for cooking at a young age, helping his mother out around the kitchen. His first jobs were at a small pizza joint and then an Italian restaurant making pasta.
Jackson was one of the first students at Wake Tech’s culinary program at its inception, but he left culinary school for real-world experience as sous chef in a kitchen.
“I was selective of the restaurants I worked at around the Triangle,” he said, touting his experience working with notable chefs like John Wright at Glenwood Grill, John Toler at Bloomsbury Bistro, and Daniel Schurr at Second Empire.
What’s the most important trait you took from the chefs you worked under?
I think the most important thing was just to be creative, but remember my fundamentals and technique. I learned to develop my cuisine into my personal touch. I was able to work with these guys and pick up these little bits of things throughout my career that basically developed my culinary style.
What is your go-to comfort meal?
I love soups, and I’m a huge fan of braised meats. Really, my go-to is the smoker, I love smoking food.
Any good kitchen disaster stories?
When I was a lot younger, I got in some fresh crab at Glenwood Grill, and the crab was cold, so they were kind of laying dormant. So, as I was accepting the order, they were sitting on the prep table because it was the first thing I was going to work on, and all of a sudden, they started to wake up. They were everywhere, and it was crazy. They literally fell off the table and started crawling around. I had to grab them with my tongs and stuff. It was a disaster. That’s when I was first getting started. Did you cook them? Hell yeah, I cooked them. We washed them and made soft shell crab and she-crab soup.
You’re stranded on a desert island. What food would you want to have with you?
Fresh water, of course. Saying I could catch fish, I would have to have salt and pepper, fresh herbs and produce, good wine, and olive oil.
You’re going to be executed tomorrow. What is your last meal?
It would have to be seafood, probably sea bass.
When is the last time you microwaved a hot dog?
I have never microwaved a hot dog, never. My kids think I’m crazy because I like them boiled, but my go-to is definitely not microwave. You know, we don’t even have a microwave on the line.
What is your most essential kitchen gadget?
Definitely my knives. I have a lot of pride in my chef knives.
What is the least essential item?
Distilled white vinegar. It’s for washing windows.
What does the future of Watersview look like with you at the helm?
A lot of people make comments that we’re seasonal. When the summer’s hot and people are out on the lake, we’re pretty daggone busy. I’d like to see it being full and busy every day of the week that we’re open. I think that the food here is good, and it’s working, but I think Watersview can be a fine dining restaurant where you have center of the plate presentation, where things are a little more fancy. I want to develop a menu where I kind of orchestrate the full meal. I’m a huge fan of farm to table. I just don’t know my resources in the area yet, but I would love to support the local farmers.
If you weren’t a chef or even in the food industry, what would your career be?
I could probably live with being a charter boat captain.
How do you trick the health inspectors?
They’re always right. They are always correct. Absolutely.
There’s a grease fire in the kitchen. Quick, what do you do?
Salt. Try to throw salt on it first. It smothers it. If salt doesn’t work, try milk. Never water.
Are you a screamer in the kitchen?
I can get loud, but I’m pretty even Steven. I used to throw pans a long time ago. I’ll get frustrated, but for the most part, I’m pretty relaxed.
Watersview Restaurant is located at the north end of Eaton Ferry Bridge at 2107 Eaton Ferry Road, Littleton NC.