Chef Eric Heath of Cleveland-Heath Calls Edwardsville "An Awesome Place"
|Eric Heath in the kitchen | Jennifer Silverberg|
(Did Heath eat at the French Laundry? He did. Did it live up to the hype?
"It's the best meal I've had in my life. There's not a hiccup there, ever. And we were looking. We scrutinized the crap out of that place, and we loved every moment.")
Cleveland continued to work at the French Laundry the year after they graduated from the CIA. Heath, meanwhile, worked at a sushi restaurant for a while and then took a sous chef position at a resort in Last Chance, Idaho -- "The fly-fishing mecca of the world," he notes.
"They don't have a stellar reputation for food," he adds, "but it was a really cool challenge. Every day the menu changed. The chef let me do everything. They let me buy whatever."
Heath returned to northern California and took a position at Farmstead, a true farm-to-table restaurant that raises its own pigs and cattle as well as grows its own produce. (Cooks pick the day's fruits and vegetables each morning.) He also credits his time at Farmstead with teaching him the nuts and bolts of food and labor costs -- the business of being a chef.
Throughout this time, Heath and Cleveland honed their business plan and researched where to open their first restaurant. They considered Napa and Salt Lake City. And -- because Cleveland herself hails from Bethalto, Illinois -- Edwardsville.