Homegrown: A Q&A With Chef Chaz Lindsay
The Belhaven-born chef talks about inspiration and recommendations in Jackson.
At its core, authentic Italian cuisine maximizes simplicity and turns it into something substantial, fresh, and timeless. On the other side of the globe, it's a concept nearly all Mississippians are familiar with and shines through in our own food, art, music, and way of life. Belhaven native Chaz Lindsay is blending the best of both worlds with Pulito Osteria, his Italian concept in the heart of Belhaven Town Center. The accomplished chef talks about what inspires him and where he recommends visiting when you’re in Jackson.
On His Experience Growing Up & Now Owning a Restaurant in Belhaven
You have a lot of people who are very invested in Belhaven, myself being one of them. What's amazing is the number of visitors that thank me for "doing this in Jackson." It's strange to me that people feel like they have to thank me because I believe Jackson is an amazing place. This is my home, and ever since I figured out this is what I wanted to do with my life, I knew I wanted to open a restaurant here.
On What Kickstarted His Culinary Career
My mom (Jackson Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay) is a great cook, and hanging out with her in the kitchen was a big inspiration. My grandmother on my mom's side was also an incredible cook, and my dad's parents always had a fantastic garden in their backyard every summer. My first job was when I was 15 at Pizza Shack behind the cash register; several years later, I ended up going to Upstate New York for culinary school and never looked back. I worked with some amazing people and restaurants during that time, like Eleven Madison Park and Chef Tom Colicchio. After living in Italy and El Paso, I was ready to come back to start Pulito [Osteria].
On What Inspired Pulito Osteria (Hint: It Wasn't Italian Food)
I love French cuisine - the technique, the skill, the discipline. But it can get complicated. When I worked with Colicchio, I saw where you could implement much of the same technique but make it more approachable. That's what we try to do at Pulito - we're making it all from scratch, but everything's more relaxed, even down to the dinnerware. It's meant to be shared around a table. Plus, we work with some amazing farmers and sources to use as much local and seasonal produce as possible. That, to me, is Italian food - the combination of seasonality and sourcing the best ingredients you can.
On Where To Visit When You're In-Town
Chef Damien [Cavicchi] is doing a really good job with Hal & Mal's new menu and resurgence. I had their Sunday brunch recently, and it was delicious. Plus, Hal & Mal's is such a fun and unique Jackson thing to experience. If you're here over a weekend, you've got to go to F. Jones Corner. Running a restaurant, you're usually getting off work late. So, going to get wings and a cold PBR; you can't beat it. And it's also very uniquely tied to Jackson and Mississippi.
On The Quintessential Italian Dish (Sorry Pasta Lovers)
Super easy. The caponata we have on the menu right now. To me, there can't be a more Italian dish - everything that grows together goes together, it's in season, and you're using a preservation process to create it over several days. It's beautiful. It's refreshing, like summer in a bowl. Aside from our bolognese, but whatever - everyone knows that one. (laughs)