Chef Q&A: Kari Lenser

Vandy's 5 Brothers Sports Bar & Italian Eatery's Head Cook/General Manger Kari Lenser displays an 18-inch pizza covered with various toppings or also as the Gourmet or Specialty Pizza in 15 topping combinations.

Jenine C. Ouillette/Special to the Eagle

Vandy's 5 Brothers Sports Bar & Italian Eatery's Head Cook/General Manger Kari Lenser displays an 18-inch pizza covered with various toppings or also as the Gourmet or Specialty Pizza in 15 topping combinations.

Vandy's with an Edge

1089 North Collier Boulevard, Marco

Head Cook/General Manager , Vandy’s 5 Brothers Sports Bar and Italian Eatery, 1089 N. Collier Blvd. (Marco Town Center next to post office). Phone: 394-8767

Began working at present restaurant:

Two years ago

Who or what inspired you to become a chef/cook?

I was always fussing around in the kitchen at home when I was growing up. Then, I worked in a restaurant after high school . I was a teenager and I thought it would be fun.

What was your first restaurant job?

Shift leader at Rocky’s Rococo Pizza in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisc.

How long have you been cooking professionally?

More than 20 years all told.

How would you describe your cooking style?

American sports bar/melting pot because we have such a varied menu -- I like to keep up with the trends and stay versatile.

What is your most popular dish?

Our homemade lasagna dinner:. It’s a very generous portion with a twist — we cover it with a mound of grated cheese and melt it under the broiler — looks great and tastes even better. At lunch or anytime, I’d say our Nutty Chicken Salad is also popular. chicken breast rolled in chopped pecans, sliced and served atop mixed greens, tossed with Mandarin orange sections, cranberries, celery and crumbled bleu cheese with a mango vinaigrette dressing.

What is your favorite wine?

Usually California chardonnay, but some of the Australian ones are also good.

What is your favorite snack?

Our pizza. It’s always there, and we make the best in Marco.

Do you cook at home? If so, what would we always find in your freezer?

I always like to keep some kind of chicken on hand in case I feel like cooking.

What is your secret ingredient? Why?

Cavender’s Greek Seasoning -- I’ve been using it for years. I used to mail-order it by the bucket, but now you can buy it any market. My specialty is grilled chicken seasoned with Cavender’s.

What annoys you most in the kitchen?

The heat -- even though a lot of cooks won’t admit it.

What do you enjoy most about your profession?

I most enjoy meeting such a variety of people, from our staff to our customers. There’s always something going on with so many different personalities — never a dull moment!

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