Written by Steve Fondo
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 18:21
Local native Chef Jody Klocko spent years traveling the globe, a student of the world, eating strange and wondrous foods, immersing himself in exotic cultures and honing his culinary skills, until deciding there really is no place like home.
Klocko is the Executive Chef for proprietor Joe Matteo, at the meticulously-restored Frederick Stegmaier Mansion Bed & Breakfast, in Wilkes-Barre, where he creates gastronomic art– the creative and particular placement of food on its serving vessel– from a vibrant palette of fresh, local ingredients.
Chef Klocko began his culinary career after high school as a line chef at Hottle’s Restaurant and Bar, in Wilkes-Barre, for nine years before deciding to continue his education at the International Pastry Art Center, in New York, under the tutelage of a former White House pastry chef, Albert Kumin.
“I loved the culinary profession and I wanted to be the best chef I could be,” he said. “Training under Chef Kumin afforded me that opportunity.”
After his pastry training in New York, Klocko worked in the kitchen at the prestigious Ritz-Carlton, in Aspen, Colorado, before accepting a position closer to home as head pastry chef at the world-renowned French eatery, Le Bec-Fin, in Philadelphia.
“Le Bec-Fin was a dream come true,” he noted. “Working there presented me with a lot of unique culinary opportunities.”
It was at Le Bec-Fin where Klocko met Michael Schneider, editor of Pastry Art and Design magazine. After appraising Klocko’s culinary talents, Schneider recruited him for a team of top-notch pastry chefs he was creating to compete in national pastry competitions. With Klocko on board, Schneider’s U.S. Pastry Team swept the American competition and was invited to compete against other international teams at the vaunted 2001 Coupe du Monde pastry championship in Lyon, France, where it became the first U.S. team to win the World Cup gold medal.
With the gold medal hanging around his neck, Klocko was recruited by famed Belgian chocolatier Godiva to serve as resident chocolatier and pastry chef at the company’s research and development center in Reading, Pennsylvania.
“They flew me to Belgium for an interview and they saw something they liked,” he joked.
While at Godiva, Klocko traveled throughout the world developing a line of signature truffles that featured distinct flavors from exotic ports of call, such as Indonesia and the West Indies.
“Godiva wanted to introduce a pastry chef’s feel into their product line,” he said. “It was a wonderfully creative environment.”
Klocko was named one of the 10 Best Pastry Chefs in America by chocolatier and pastry arts magazines and has appeared regularly on the Food Network. Many of his signature recipes can be found at FoodNetwork.com.
“Because of the Food Network, people are much more aware of the dining experience,” he explained. “I like to meet my customers following a meal. It’s important for me to educate them, to explain the ingredients and the inspiration behind the dish. Customer feedback is vital.”
Klocko spent considerable time with sustainable food pioneer Alice Walters in Berkeley California Kitchen, getting back to basics and learning the tenets of simple, honest food. He says Walters’s attention to fresh, seasonal, organic ingredients inspired his love of contemporary American cuisine.
“There’s something amazing about locally grown, fresh, farm-to-table ingredients. Seasonal fare is everything.”
Klocko’s chief culinary influence is Chef Ferran Adria, at the famed elBulli restaurant, in Catalunya, Spain, though he laughingly admits that “molecular gastronomy” isn’t his thing.
“I admire Adria’s creativity and drive,” he explained. “He continues to inspire me and I think chefs need continuing inspiration to avoid stagnation.”
Klocko’s journey has come full circle.
“All the traveling I did throughout my career made it very difficult to raise a family,” he reflected. “I wanted to take a break from the rat race and come home to family and friends.”
Chef Klocko’s mastery of the savory and sweet make him a unique culinary gem in a proud area where hard work and coal dust can produce brilliant diamonds.
Visit IndependentNEPA.com/chefjody for one of Chef Jody Klocko’s signature recipes.