Tucson Restaurant News: Meet the Chef of The Abbey
One of my favorite restaurants is JaxKitchen. Owners Brian and Sandy Metzger named Jax after their son. So it makes perfect sense that their new second restaurant, The Abbey, is named after their daughter. Plus the goddess for equality of the sexes will be happy too.
The Abbey will offer distinctive American comfort food in a warm, neighborhood setting on the southeast corner of Sunrise and Kolb, overlooking Ventana Canyon. Patrons will enjoy spectacular foothills views from virtually every seat in the restaurant, whether they choose to sit in the main dining room, bar, or wrap-around patio.
The Metzgers are bringing local chef Virginia (Ginny) Wooters on as executive chef. Wooters brings nearly two decades of culinary experience to The Abbey. She served as executive chef at local restaurants including McClintock’s and Wildflower Grill, and was the lead line cook at the Dish. She also served as executive chef at Sweet Oregon Grill in suburban Portland, and demo chef at Tucson’s Canyon Ranch.
I – Karyn Zoldan – interviewed Chef Wooters to find how what’s cooking:
KZ: What was in the former Abbey space?
Chef Wooters: Gavi and Cold Stone Creamery
KZ: I like the minimalistic feel of JaxKitchen; it has a LA vibe. What is The Abbey going to look like?
Chef Wooters: I’m not sure about the interior décor.
KZ: Do you have an opening date yet? What meals will The Abbey serve?
Chef Wooters: The opening date is sometime in October. Meals are happy hour and dinner.
KZ: Happy hour! That’s my favorite meal of the day.
KZ: How do you know Brian and Sandy?
Chef Wooters: We all worked at Wildflower Grill when it first opened 10 or 11 years ago. I was in the kitchen and Sandy and Brian were servers. They were not married yet.
KZ: How are you defining distinctive American food? What’s the concept based on?
Chef Wooters: Comfort food… upscale food that makes you feel good, seasonal food, fresh food in a neighborhood restaurant.
KZ: What are some menu items?
Chef Wooters: There will be some favorites from the JaxKitchen menu like the mussels in chorizo broth and the bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin. As for new items, you’ll just have to be surprised.
KZ: I love the mussels in chorizo broth and frites.
KZ: Does Tucson have very many female executive chefs?
Chef Wooters: I can’t think of any except Suzana Davila from Café Poca Cosa, also Jax has a female sous chef. Phoenix and Scottsdale have more female chefs than Tucson.
KZ: What are your favorite restaurants in Tucson?
Chef Wooters: JaxKitchen, Crossroads in South Tucson and Poco & Mom’s for Mexican food, Maynards because there’s a little something for everyone. I also like Primo in the Starr Pass Resort. It has a female corporate executive chef Melissa Kelly. Primo has great bread, phenomenal desserts, and an admirable wine list. My mother and I had a great meal at Feast; I look forward to their new location.
KZ: What was it like being a chef in Portland?
Chef Wooters: Portland has amazing produce, outstanding protein choices. Vendors would knock on the door trying to sell seasonal flats of rarely seen chanterelles, morels, golden raspberries, fiddlehead ferns.
KZ: What is your perfect meal?
Chef Wooters: I’m a food craver, very food oriented. If I’m craving ice cream, I find satisfaction in a bowl of ice cream with fresh raspberries which was my last crave by the way. In Portland, I crave breakfast frequently and love going to the Stepping Stone Café which is a hole-in-the-wall place where people line up but the Café treats breakfast like dinner with homemade oversized omelets, homemade pastry, and great coffee.
KZ: How young are you?
Chef Wooters: 35
KZ: What’s that big tattoo on your arm?
Chef Wooters: It’s a tribute to my father who died when I was 19. He was the perfect father, the quintessential dad. He and my mom always made sure we had dinner as a family, we went to drive-in movies. He was one special dude.
KZ: Do you have any last words?
Chef Wooters: Yes! I excited to serve good food at The Abbey. I’m rejuvenated and want to have fun with food and the concept.