Q&A With John C. Roth of Bizaare Ave. Café in Lake Worth

It may seem like a bizarre concept, but Bizaare Ave. Café is one restaurant where you actually go out to feel like you're eating - well - at home. But with a private chef. And a full bar. And a stellar wine list.

After all, where else can you sit down on a sink-in-your-seat sofa and have an intimate meal with near private chef service?

We met the man behind the menu, Executive Chef John C. Roth, for a very personal sit-down, small plate sampling to see what makes this concept so amazing. Here's what he had to say:  

Bizaare was recently chosen to be featured on Michelle Bernstein's "Check Please." It's definitely a great date spot with a very different and eclectic menu, to say the least. What's it like to work with that type of menu?

The menu makes it not the most affordable place, but it's for people who don't mind paying for the experience. There really aren't too many places you can go like this.

Bizaare's menu remained relatively unchanged until you came along. How is it different now?

I've been with the restaurant six and a half years now, and created a lot of what you see today. There's nothing on the menu I'm not proud to serve. Of course, there are the favorites, like the baked brie appetizer ($15) that I haven't touched. Why mess with a classic? But I like to do a lot with pastas and risotto - and dinner specials. That's where I really get creative.

You say you work a lot with risotto. That's very specific. Why do you like it?

Risotto can be paired with anything, and you can add anything to it. You can make it change color, carry a lot of flavor, or be very simple and plain. But you have to know how to cook it, and take the time to do it right. The key is to slow cook it to get the starch to get it very creamy.

So you like to be creative - would you say that's what you like most about cooking for Bizarre?

I love it here because they allow me total freedom - and the specials are where I get most creative. There's no one breathing down my back to do things a certain way, so I'll change them frequently, sometimes daily. Sometimes every other day, or a few times a week. I'll just come in and decide what I want to do that day. It can get expensive, but for the people that come here, it works.

In 2007 the New Times named Bizaare the "Most Intimate Dinner Spot". What, in your opinion, is the foremost reason people come to Bizaare?

People come here for different reasons. Some come for the menu, and the fine dining experience. Others come for the atmosphere. It's a romantic place, with the big couches and a laid back feel. It's a great first date spot, or to celebrate special occasions.

"It's the only place I know besides home where I can eat on the couch" - Bizaare server

Can you name a few of your favorite specials you won't see on the menu?

My Steak Diane ($28) has been on the special list for a while now. I just can't seem to sell enough of it. I take two 4 oz. filets and sear them to perfection. It's served with a mushroom and onion sherry cream sauce with rosemary mashed potatoes and sautéed asparagus. I also have a seared scallop special ($28 for 4 large bay scallops) served over a parsley risotto with sautéed spinach.

So you're big on fresh, new ideas. How do you feel about cooking to order?

If it's not really busy, I have no problem cooking [to order]. There's not a big calling for a tasting menu, but it's exciting when I get to do it. If I have it in the kitchen, I'll make it. I shop every day for the restaurant, and I'm at the fish market two times a week to get fresh fish. I love when customers come in and ask for something new. It keeps it different. I've had a lot of people come in and ask, "You know that special you had a few months ago?" I don't always remember, but if you tell me what you want, I can make it happen.

Tell us about your cooking style.

My motto is to cook in a way that nothing is overpowering. Keep it simple and just use salt and fresh crushed white pepper. So many places miss that.

But I have two different styles. The Chinese say it's important to hit every taste bud - the sweet, the salty, the spicy. Where you take a bite, and have your mouth explode with flavor. You'll see that with my eggplant and goat cheese Napoleon appetizer special. It has the rich, salty flavor of the goat cheese paired with the crunchy, blander taste of the eggplant. Then you have the tomato jalapeno sauce on top for that sweet, spicy heat.

That's quite an approach. What is your culinary background? Did you go to culinary school?

I attended the Florida Culinary Institute, but I've been in the industry for over 10 years. I started at 14 as a dishwasher, but I've bussed, waited, served - you name it. Then I came to Florida and thought, "Why not do what I love here?"

Well, we love that you decided to come to South Florida, too.

Where: Bizaare is located at 921 Lake Avenue, Lake Worth, FL 33460
Contact: 561-588-4488
Visit: www.BizaareAveCafe.com for the full menu, restaurant hours and more.

Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB.

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