A handful of local restaurants have positioned themselves to be an integral part of our local arts scene — providing an inspiring symbiosis of performance, display and cuisine. æ
Examples include Casa Tina in Dunedin or The Bricks in Tampa, eateries which have doubled as arts venues and have become almost as known for their events as their cuisine — all the while they display a creative, sophisticated flair in their plating and decor.
The Iberian Rooster is taking this artful dining approach to an inspiring new plateau.
Owner Russell Andrade, a musician, tenor and opera supporter, has made it his mission to provide tasty cultural enlightenment by taking us on a culinary exploration of Portugal and its offshoot colonial cuisines around the world and setting up his restaurant as an arts showplace — from artwork by the Vitale Brothers on the walls to weekly shows of all types.
Further tying Iberian Rooster to the cultural scene is Andradeäó»s choice of head chef, Ed Lowery, who has become well-known over the past three decades on two fronts: He conjured the flavors of Old Florida at Skipperäó»s Smokehouse and drummed and/or fronted for some of ouræmusic sceneäó»s most influential bands including The Immediates, Magadog and The Apes.
Lowery met Russell through his girlfriend, Teresa Ancaya. They both work together with the St Pete Opera. Andrade had informed Ancaya that he was in search of a chef and she arranged a meeting.
äóìWe immediately hit it off and here we are,äó Lowery beams. äóìRussell is a great guy and friend. He is also a insanely talented musician and singer, so watch out.äó æ
Lowery took time to share some thoughts on his new gig as head chef for one of the most talked about new restaurants in downtown St. Pete.
How do you compare the artistry of making and playing music to the kitchen creations of a head chef?
Good question. Oddly a ton of musicians are also chefs and/or cooks. The creative process is similar for both. I seem to channel the same part of my brain for cooking and dish creation. Timing and use of the ingredients is the same for both cooking and music.
Your dishes are eye-catching äóî almost like expressionistic abstract paintings. What inspires you while arranging the food on the plate? Does Andrade or anyone else provide input on how they should look or are they your creations alone?
Thank you! No these messes on a plate are all mine. Of course other cooks and people I have worked with over the years have influenced my style. I don’t really have any inspiration when plating. I just try to work the colors, sauces and shapes together accordingly. æææ
Name a couple of your favorite dishes and from which Portugal-colonized countries do they originate?
One of my new favorites is the Minchi. Minchi is a classic street food rice dish from Macau featuring chorizo, ground beef and a sunny side up egg. It features a swank blend of sweet and savory with both Asian and Portuguese flavors. Since we opened the Rooster I have had a crash course in all of these different cuisines. There is a ton to learn and I can’t wait for our future monthly menu change-outs to try different things. Next month I hope to lean more towards traditional Portuguese fare but we will see what happens.
What do you think of working in St. Pete? Do you live there now?æHave you moved to St. Pete?
No. I still live in the Tampa area. My kids and family are all over here, so a move to St Pete would be tough although it is very tempting since the commute sucks! Working in St Pete isn’t that different really. I have played gigs over here for so many years it has become a second home. I’m still recognized at the Emerald Bar, at least.
Do you think Iberian Rooster will blend in well with the culture of St. Pete?
Both Tampa and St. Pete have come a long way since the ’80s and ’90säó_. I love St Pete and the progress it has made over the past 20 years. Unlike Tampa, it has an active downtown with a more compact upbeat urban feel. Support for the arts,food and music scene is more concentrated there.
Whatäó»s some of your favorite artwork in the restaurant?
The artwork is by the Vitale Brothers, two local brothers who do amazing murals and street art here in the Burg. äó_. My faves are the classic rooster designs in the bathroom hallway. They look amazing in neon colors.
Coming up at The Iberian Rooster:
O Som do Jazz (bossa nova fronted by David Manson and wife Andrea Manson), Friday, Jan. 13, 9 p.m.
Burlesque Art after Dark, Sun., Jan. 22, 10 p.m.
475 Central Ave. N., Suite 100, St. Petersburg