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@Work: Chef Jason Cope

July 6, 2005 – Jason Cope, the 33-year-old chef at Christiansted's Kendrick's, has worked in many restaurants in a lot of places. But now that he is in St. Croix, he says, "I'll probably work here until I die."
Five years ago Cope was working as a chef in the Hamptons on Long Island when he came to the Virgin Islands to sail with friends. One of the people on board his boat was running the Terrace Restaurant at the Buccaneer Resort.
Cope says, "He gave me the pitch. It didn't take much. I hated the winters in New York."
Cope worked two years at the Terrace as a line cook. He says that is one of the reasons he took the job too, he wanted to take a break from the responsibilities of being a chef, "No inventories to do; when your shift is over you go home."
However, while working at the Terrace, he went out to eat at Kendrick's once and was immediately attracted to the place. He says, "I enjoyed the food. Kendrick's was serving the food that I like preparing."
He put it in his mind that if there was ever an opening at Kendrick's, he was going to be there. An opening came after his second season at the Terrace, and he jumped. Cope is in his third season at Kendrick's, and he is starting it as a bit of a celebrity. He prepared the winning entrée, a succulent duck dish, in the Taste of St. Croix event in April and now finds himself often preparing his prize-winning dish for patrons at Kendrick's.
The duck not only tastes good, but its presentation is quite different from most duck dishes. He says the presentation of a dish is very important to him. "Often the eye tastes the food before the mouth does," Cope says.
Being able to be creative, like in the presentation of food, is one of the things he enjoys about being a chef. He says, "I try to keep everything crisp and clean, but I do get a little wild sometimes."
Another thing he enjoys is receiving immediate feedback about the efforts of his labor. He says, "I really enjoy it when people stop by the kitchen window and say they enjoyed the meal, it is even better when they say it was the best meal they have ever eaten."
He says he gets a lot of those comments but could use more.
The restaurant was closed during the off-season last year but is going to remain open all this year. Cope works 10-hour days in the off-season but says an 18-hour day is not unheard of during the season.
He is also involved in the catering the restaurant does for schools, government events and weddings.
Jason started his career working the country club circuit in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. He then did a stint at the Westin Hotel in Columbus before moving on to New York.
He says about St. Croix, "The restaurant community here is great. It is like family."
But his life on St. Croix is not all work. He likes to go hiking in the rain forest and says he escapes to a friends' farm whenever he can. He also likes diving and fishing.
Although he can't take credit for catching the fish served at the restaurant, he says everything, even the desserts, are prepared right in the kitchen. He says, "We do it all from A to Z."
He gives credit to Jeannette Wright and Pauline Faum who work in the kitchen with him. He says, "We make a great team."
Kendrick's is located at the Quin House on King Cross Street in Christiansted. For information call 773-9199. Dinners are served Monday through Saturday, 6 p.m. until 9:30 p.m.
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