CAMP VERDE – A funny thing happened on the way to John Teah becoming a computer programmer in San Diego.
He found inspiration in his job as a dishwasher.
Truth is, his revelation came in the form of a chef.
“Bernard Guillas, he was a chef, he was my inspiration,” Teah says. “I worked with him for two years.”
Teah, who began cooking as a child, worked as a dishwasher to support himself through college. The more time he spent in school, the more he saw a career in computers as “boring.”
So one day, Teah asked for an opportunity to transition into a line cook position. From there – then seven Verde Valley chef jobs later – Teah is about ready to open the doors of his first restaurant. In Camp Verde.
Camp Verde is so different from San Diego. For one, Camp Verde is now the home of JT Bistro.
Classic, elegant dining is how Teah describes his new Main Street restaurant. Five years ago, Teah first visualized being a restauranteur. He wanted a place that was all his own.
“But I didn’t see it in Camp Verde,” said Teah, who at the time was a chef in Sedona. “Three months ago, I decided we needed another good restaurant in town.”
So Teah began testing several of his favorite recipes on his friends and family. Of course he tasted the dishes as well.
Now a restauranteur, Teah promises that he will not leave the kitchen, but he will share cooking duties with two good friends, Sous Chef Shawn Stoun and Chef de Cuisine Xavier Cosse.
Growing up on a farm in Liberia, Teah not only cooked, but he also grew his own vegetables.
“I grew up with a lot of spice,” Teah says. “The Jamaican jerk chicken club on the menu, that was part of my childhood.”
It’s been 10 years since Teah, now 30, began his epicurean career. Now he has an opportunity to run his own restaurant, and to work with good friends who also happen to be chefs.
Cosse, who goes by “X,” tends to favor Mexican food, though while in culinary school, he “did the whole world.” Which is also somewhat coincidental, since he grew up wanting to be a pilot.
“But I’ve always liked to cook,” Cosse says. “I was the gravy master growing up.”
Classic American food, “old-school with a twist” is how Teah describes the restaurant’s offerings. The twist, as Teah says, is due to almost everything being made from scratch. Teah says he is not a fan of pre-made foods.
Breads, dressings and sauces – all from scratch. Ketchup, mayonnaise – made from scratch. Pickles – yep, made from scratch.
“Everything will be made in house,” Teah says. “I’ll even make the corn tortillas here for the tacos.”
Imagine a bacon-wrapped deep fried pickle with a sriracha ranch sauce.
“You can’t go wrong with bacon,” Teah says. “Everyone loves bacon.”
And how about homemade biscuits and homemade sausage gravy, with two kinds of cheese in the biscuits. From scratch.
Teah is even planning a spice and herb garden on the restaurant’s patio.
Other classic, yet elegant dishes on the menu include the sweet crab cake benedict, pecan crusted French toast, fried green tomato caprese, pork belly tacos and the Mahi Mahi fish and chips.
And everything on the menu is affordable. Very affordable.
“Something elegant, but not too pricey,” Teah says.
JT Bistro will serve breakfast from 6 a.m. until noon, with lunch available from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Happy Hour menu is from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m., with dinner from 5 p.m. until close.
Teah says he is hopeful that the restaurant will be open by Nov. 1. For the first week, JT Bistro will be open for breakfast and lunch. Beginning the second week, dinner hours will be added.
JT Bistro is located at 348 S. Main St. in Camp Verde. Hours are 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Reservations are not required, though they are encouraged.
For more information, call 928-567-7502 or visit www.jtbistro.com. Menus are available online.