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Scott Switzer and his wife, Ashley Tayloe-Switzer, put great care and thought into each of their frequent menu changes, always with the goal of creating a blend of new and familiar for their guests.
In a classic french kitchen brigade, the newest cooks wear blue aprons. They are the most inexperienced. They are also the most eager to learn, compete and rise above their lowly station. They have a sense of urgency about them to continually develop and hone their skills to perfection. Here, they learn to be fast and excellent. And while they learn, they wear blue aprons because they cannot yet keep a white apron clean.
It might seem strange to name a restaurant in honor of the lowest person in the kitchen totem pole. But that is exactly what owner, Scott Switzer, did when opening Blue Apron Restaurant & Red Rooster Bar with architect wife, Ashley Tayloe-Switzer, in 2010.
Switzer, born and raised in Salem, never considered food as a career until working as a food runner at a South Floridian semi-fine dining restaurant. In this particular restaurant, the food runners also prepared salads. Switzer had a knack for multi-tasking salad making with food running. So much so, that one of his managers suggested he give the kitchen a try. Reflecting on that time, Switzer says it makes sense he would be good in the kitchen since it is essentially an athletic job: high energy, fast paced and quick thinking.
After several years and some introspection about his future, Switzer acted on his former manager’s suggestion. He attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. From there, Switzer worked as a chef in several restaurants along the east coast. Each place helped shape his beliefs about food and hospitality. “[It’s] the Alice Water Movement (originator of farm-to-table) shoved together with French cooking,” explains Switzer in describing the basic tenets of his cooking style. When he and Tayloe-Switzer combined their years of experiences in food, architecture, hospitality and nurturing people, the Blue Apron emerged.
Interestingly, if you had asked me before interviewing Switzer what Blue Apron’s “thing” is in Roanoke’s line-up of “hipster” generation (as Switzer calls them) restaurants (e.g: Local Roots, The River and Rail, Lucky), I couldn’t have told you—other than, it’s different. Switzer laughs when I mention this, saying it’s something he hears often. Even his employees have a hard time pinning it down. There’s the small plates. But the difference is beyond small plates. Switzer believes it’s the entire Blue Apron brand—a classically elegant French style anchored in blue apron heart. It permeates everything: the architecture and decor, the service, the menu, the small plates option, the food.
So, how does this translate for Roanokers trying to decide where to dine for an evening? Switzer says he thinks what Blue Apron offers guests is an exciting, yet safe, dining experience.
Safe, but not boring.
“My job is to offer [customers] change well,” Switzer explains when describing Blue Apron’s revolving six-week menu. Thus, ‘safe’ at Blue Apron means the risks taken in the kitchen will always translate into a rich, complex and completely satisfying gastronomic experience for diners. “Our guests deserve safety, but they also deserve excitement.” As such, Switzer is constantly challenging his chefs and servers to represent the Blue Apron brand in individual and creative ways.