Chef Eric Zamudio is the proprietor of Craft Bistro & Lounge. The restaurant is set to open October 8 and is located on the second floor of 104 Fair Ave. NE in downtown New Philadelphia. (Submitted photo)
By Cameron Krahel, Tusco TV
At an early age, Eric Zamudio loved fine cuisine and traveling with this parents. As he got older, that love blossomed into a desire to work in fine dining.
Self-diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Eric realized that he would need to excel at a career that would give him the ability to multitask and stay busy, so he applied to attend the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute.
After graduating, Eric traveled to Florida to work at one of Disney World’s fine dining restaurants. There, he was faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge laid down by the executive chef he worked for.
That chef did not believe in Eric’s skills as a chef and told him he was in the wrong profession.
While most would heed that advice, Eric knew that abandoning his dreams was not the answer.
When he met David Sears of the Forte Restaurant at the Ginn Reunion Resort in Kissimmee, Florida, he began to blossom into the chef he is today.
David took the budding chef under his wing, instilling in him that cooking is not only about food but also about management and interacting with staff and guests.
With a renewed spirit, Eric moved home to buy the family property and build his own retreat, a place where he would be able to interact with and guide guests to give them the best experience in the area. Starting with a blank slate also gave Eric the opportunity lay out exactly what was in his mind and not have to work with someone else's problem from an existing restaurant.
As Country Cottage and Gardens grew and became successful, Eric knew it was time to expand on the foundation he had built. That’s when he began working on a plan to launch a second establishment - Craft Bistro and Lounge in New Philadelphia.
Zamudio's vision for the new restaurant is built on the same premise as Country Cottage and Gardens and consisted of creating an environment where food, service, and atmosphere go hand in hand. Having a restaurant on the second floor would also create views of downtown New Philadelphia unrivaled by any other restaurant in the area or beyond.
When laying out his menu, Eric knew he wanted to offer dishes that were new and exciting as well as comfortable.
When discussing the menu, he knew it would need to be paired with drinks as well as the atmosphere. He has given his cocktail maestros the ability to design drinks with essences of sweet, savory, smoke, hot, and cold. Many craft beers and fine wine will be available also, but he wants everyone to experience all aspects of what his bartenders can do.
Local fares, as well as exotic items, were sourced when designing the dining menu. The menu will also be built around the seasons and availability of items and presentation will play a large role in plating.
Chef Eric is adamant about giving the guest the experience of dining from the moment they are greeted on the phone until the moment they have dessert.
But opening the restaurant on the second floor was not without its challenges.
First, there was the challenge of building the kitchen, which had to be constructed around the equipment after it had been brought in.
Then, while preparing to open late last year, Eric learned that the building’s existing elevator system would need to be upgraded in order for the establishment to be ADA compliant.
A new system has since been installed, along with a safe haven spot in case of a fire, and the restaurant is now preparing for its debut.
As construction draws to a close and cleanup begins, there is a sense of excitement in the restaurant. The layout is being tweaked to make sure every patron has the best seat in the house. The kitchen is being gone over with a fine-tooth comb to ensure every square inch is being utilized properly.
A soft launch is set for October 2 and October 4 and is open by invitation only. The restaurant will officially open to the public on October 8, with regular hours set for Monday through Friday from 4:30 to 11 p.m.
The restaurant can found at 104 Fair Ave NE in New Philadelphia. Reservations can be made by calling 330-432-4488.
Cameron Krahel is a semi-retired chef. He is a graduate of Culinary Arts and Hotel and Restaurant Management program at Hocking College and previously served as the head chef at Union Country Club, The Inn at Honey Run, The Canal Tavern of Zoar, and Columbia Woodlands. Look for his new show, "Be My Guest", coming soon to Tusco TV.