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- 2013 - January - 30th -

Workspace: Jonathan Insetta, owner, Black Sheep and Orsay restaurants

  • Jacksonville native Jonathan Insetta, owner of restaurants Black Sheep and Orsay, was inspired by food and farming at an early age. “I was one of the only kids I knew who had to collect eggs on a daily basis,” says Insetta. He grew up in the Mandarin area, where his parents had a garden, chickens, turkeys and a donkey. “At the time, I hated it, but it has hugely influenced my life,” he says. Now Insetta spends much of his working time in the kitchens of the two restaurants.
    Photo by Laura Jane Pittman. Purchase this photo
  • Black Sheep owner Jonathan Insetta on the rooftop bar of his newest restaurant, Black Sheep.
    Photo by Laura Jane Pittman. Purchase this photo
  • When designing the contemporary, triangular Black Sheep restaurant, Insetta worked with architects from Design Cooperative to achieve a New York artisanal, butcher shop feel. “They did an outstanding job of picking up on exactly what I wanted,” said Insetta. “It’s rare to have that type of synergy.”
    Photo by Laura Jane Pittman. Purchase this photo
  • When designing the contemporary, triangular Black Sheep restaurant, Insetta worked with architects from Design Cooperative to achieve a New York artisanal, butcher shop feel. “They did an outstanding job of picking up on exactly what I wanted,” said Insetta. “It’s rare to have that type of synergy.”
    Photo by Laura Jane Pittman. Purchase this photo
  • When Insetta envisioned Black Sheep, which replaced his Downtown eatery Chew, he wanted casual American-Southern cuisine with a twist. Many of the more popular Chew fares have been kept on the menu at Black Sheep. Lunch is “fast casual” and ordered at a lunch counter and then brought to the table by wait staff. “It’s a more affordable, approachable option with higher quality ingredients,” said Insetta.
    Photo by Laura Jane Pittman. Purchase this photo
  • Local and regional ingredients are used as much as possible in Black Sheep’s kitchen. That includes fresh herbs from planters outside the restaurant’s front door.
    Photo by Laura Jane Pittman. Purchase this photo
  • Black Sheep is Insetta’s latest restaurant endeavor and is located at 1534 Oak St. in Riverside. He also owns Orsay in Avondale and owned Chew, which was Downtown. It closed last year to make way for Black Sheep.
    Photo by Laura Jane Pittman. Purchase this photo
  • Insetta has created one of the only rooftop bars in the region on the fourth floor of his building. The bar opened several months ago and has seating for 40. “This city has great views and a lot of potential,” he said. “The bar was inspired by similar venues in other cities and we have had a great reception to it.”
    Photo by Laura Jane Pittman. Purchase this photo
  • The second and third floors of the Black Sheep building contain more than 5,000 square feet of office space for rent. Insetta says it is nearly ready for occupancy.
    Photo by Laura Jane Pittman. Purchase this photo

by Laura Jane Pittman, Contributing Writer

Jonathan Insetta, owner of restaurants Orsay and Black Sheep, spends most of his time in the kitchen — it’s where he says he feels most comfortable.

Insetta graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and he served his internship in Miami in what he calls a “busy, high-level undermanned kitchen.”

He returned to his hometown of Jacksonville and by the time he was 26 he opened his first restaurant, Chew, in Downtown.

“Back in 2002, 2003, my dad was pushing me to open up a restaurant. I didn’t feel ready, but he gave me advice I’ll never forget: ‘You’re gonna get bloody,’” said Insetta. “I’m so proud of Chew, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Unfortunately, it was not viable financially to be in that location, but having it allowed us to do Orsay.”

Orsay, at 3630 Park St. in Avondale, opened in 2008 with a French-American cuisine theme and consistently has been a top pick for awards lists and critics’ “best of” mentions.

His newest venture, Black Sheep, at 1534 Oak St., has an American-Southern menu that includes a number of Chew’s more popular dishes. It opened last year in a contemporary new building in Five Points and shortly after Chew closed.

Black Sheep’s rooftop bar, providing treetop vistas, opened about seven weeks ago.

Insetta grew up in Mandarin and said he learned early on the importance of where food comes from.

His family had a garden, chickens, turkeys and even a donkey, and he says his early experience with farming has had a huge influence on his career.

Whenever possible, ingredients for Black Sheep’s dishes come from local or regional farms and suppliers.

Last year, Insetta became a partner in East Palatka-based Black Hog Farm, a supplier of produce, poultry and pork. The farm is working toward obtaining a wholesale license for its hogs so that Black Hog pork products can be used at Insetta’s restaurants.

“It can sometimes be a challenge to find diversity with regional products, but we pick our battles and make the best choices that we can,” said Insetta. “Fortunately, it is a growing movement in the industry and one that I will continue to support.”

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