Jennifer and Jason Gorman make a formidable team. This married
couple recently took over the entire food and beverage operations of
the Ambassador Hotel. The culinary powerhouse didn’t just tweak the
menus and call it a day — they started the concepts from scratch to
create entirely new entities, transforming the lackluster Envoy into
the energetic The Fitz, the ho-hum Envoy Lounge into the Gin Rickey,
and the old breakfast café into the craveable Deco. The two sat down
in the stylish dining room of The Fitz to talk restaurant concepts,
raising their 10-year-old daughter, Eme, to be an adventurous eater,
and the delights of gourmet soft-serve ice cream as well as truffle
Tell us about The
Jason: We truly started over, reimagining
everything. We changed all of the vendors to people we have known
for the last 15 years. The inspiration was a nod to the past, when
going out to dinner used to be a grand event. The Fitz sounds like a
throwback restaurant. We’re embracing the past, but pushing forward.
Even the music is inspired by the idea of Quentin Tarantino making a
soundtrack for a 1920s restaurant. We use that time period, (Art
Deco), as an inspiration, and we love the idea of taking things you
think are pedestrian, and then saying, “What can we do with good
ingredients and looking at it differently?” For example, Jennifer
takes the idea of peanut butter and jelly to her soft serve.
Jennifer: I make a concord grape soft serve,
(with) a peanut butter drizzle, honey-roasted, crushed peanuts and
dehydrated grapes. It’s the idea that everyone does peanut butter
ice cream, (but) there’s got to be a way to do it differently. We
have a lot of fun.
Tell us about
another dish — as clearly, the menu is filled with items that sound
familiar, but there’s a twist.
Jason: In the 1920s, Chinese food was all the
rage — it was exotic, like, “Ooh, soy sauce, ginger.” Then, Wolfgang
Puck did it again in the ’80s. For our Asian chicken salad, I take
tea-smoked chicken, crispy rice noodles and lots of fresh
vegetables, really vibrant flavors. For the rumaki, which was
popular (in the ’20s), it’s basically water chestnuts, chicken
livers and bacon, but we use pork belly, and we make a Sprecher root
beer soy caramel sauce. We’re trying to accomplish a lot on the
Jennifer: Jason’s always putting a spin on
things. There were about 15 revisions to the menu before it
launched. Sometimes, he’d wake me up in the night (and say), “Jen,
Jen, I’ve got a new idea.” It’s 3 o’clock in the morning, (but)
every time he changes something, the idea keeps getting better and
better. With every (dish), there’s got to be something magical about
Tell us about
another standout dish.
Jason: The chocolate pie. It has chocolate
crust, chocolate ganache, chocolate whipped cream. It’s our
top-selling dessert. They might come here for my dinner, but they’ll
come back for (Jennifer’s) dessert.
How did you two
Jennifer: Jason and I met in Dallas at the
City Café. He was the chef, and I was the pastry chef.
Jason: We worked together at Mangia (in
Kenosha) and in Dallas, but this is the biggest project we’ve ever
Tell us about Eme,
your 10-year-old daughter.
Jennifer: She’s named after Amelia Earhart,
but her name is spelled Emelia. On the menu here, we have Eme’s
waffles. She is a food-crazy kid. She eats everything and anything.
I’ll bounce ideas off her. She loves helping in the kitchen, and she
bakes a lot at home. Her dream is to go on one of those kids chef
Does she want to
follow in your culinary footsteps?
Jennifer: No. She wants to be a marine
biologist and save sharks.
What’s in your
Jason: We always have fresh garlic, Vidalia
onions, kosher salt, cracked pepper and fresh herbs. With those
things, we can make anything good.
Jennifer: We always have chocolate. Lots of
Jason: Hoisin, Gochujang Korean hot sauce made
with fermented chiles, fish sauce.
Jennifer: Eme’s a fan of truffle ketchup.
Jason: The purveyor of Urbani Truffles gave us
some. You can get it at Glorioso’s and Woodman’s.
Anything else we
Jason: We have two certified sommeliers, which
(no one else in town has) — Jason Wedner and Erik Mulberry. They
have cultivated a small but exceptional 100-bottle wine list. We
also have a fantastic executive sous chef, Brittany Greene, who is
the third person on our team.