Interview: John Klotzbach, Sous Chef at Provisions Lot F in Ames, Iowa
John Klotzbach is the Sous Chef at Provisions Lot F in Ames, Iowa. I worked with him at The Café in Ames, Iowa as a lowly barista making his pre-service macchiato (that he obviously still drinks). I had the pleasure to work with him on the line when we both ended up at Provisions once it opened in July 2017. He has been a big influence on the positivity that I feel towards food and restaurants. Enjoy!
Simple Sugars: What is the first thing you remember eating?
John: I was really picky as a child. I ate a lot of mac and cheese and honestly hot dogs and bologna sandwiches.
Who made it better, your mom or your dad?
They were both fine but oh also my mom used to make these egg sandwiches and she would scramble eggs on toast. She also made amazing cinnamon toast. I ate a lot of bread.
Why did you get into cooking?
I started dishwashing at The Café when I was 17. I saw all the guys on the line working really hard, I thought they were super cool and all the girls were hitting on them. They were playing with flames, fire, and sharp knives and I wanted to be apart of that. When I turned 18 they gave me a chance to cook. Jon [Vandewater, past Chef at The Café and current owner of Provisions Lot F] had been watching over me, mentoring me, and I look at him as the key person in my transition from being just a dishwasher to being a cook. I still look up to him to this day. Watching him work with food and not knowing what he was doing was fascinating and still is.
Who are your biggest influencers?
My biggest influencers are mainly people that are close to me, but I’m starting to influence myself in a lot of ways. I’m figuring out my place in terms of the food I like to cook and the food I want to cook in the future. I want to get away from the fancy food. I want to get back to basics and I want to make it more about the ingredients and the integrity of the food.
Favorite thing to do in the kitchen?
Pasta. I’ve learned this about myself: I love making a sauce out of stock, white wine, butter and creating this velvety, rich sauce that doesn’t need a recipe - it just tells you when it’s good by the way it feels. I love doing a good job at that, where the sauce doesn’t break and that makes me happy.
What is your biggest challenge right now?
Staying motivated and staying excited to go above and beyond to cook the same food in the restaurant - keeping that same drive and excitement from the first day of a new menu to the last. I do a lot of reading outside of work and I cook a lot outside of work and I think that helps with the repetition at work. It gets me outside of my comfort zone. But nothing is quite as rewarding as working your ass off in the kitchen.
I like kimchi so probably cabbage. I make a lot of kimchi. *I can confirm.* And then butter and cream because they make everything better.
Describe your relationship with food in one word?
Would you describe it as emotional? artistic? physical? is it a social thing for you?
It’s all of those things. (no wonder we get along!!!!) Let’s take a charcuterie board for example. This big thing gets put down in front of you and it’s wonderful to look at -- and you share it with your friends and you’re all talking and enjoying this thing and it doesn’t get better than that. And you think about the hard work that went into making it.
What does food do for you?
Overall food makes me happy. I cook it, I eat it, I live around food, I think about food a lot, it is apart of who I am. It’s about bettering myself through food and also helping people establish relationships with food. If someone doesn’t like something, it might be because they haven’t had it prepared correctly. So, if I can do something well for someone, they can see that there is more to food than what they are used to. There is more out there for everyone. Also my friends are completely linked with food. It brings people together not only at the table but also in the kitchen. I’ve formed long-lasting, extremely strong bonds with the people I cook with. I haven’t even known some of these guys on the line for a year now and they are my closest friends. Jake [also a Sous Chef at Provisions] and I cooked together for a year in 2010 and now he is my absolute closest friend and ally and I can’t image life without him and that bond was formed in the kitchen.
What are your future goals?
I’d like to think about having my own livestock and growing my own herbs one day but it might be working here and doing that on the side but then eventually having my own 20-seat place where I cook on a more intimate setting. At the moment, I can’t, not see myself not working at Provisions. I want to buy a house when I’m 30.
Thank you for your dedication to your passion, Klotzy. Now go to Provisions and get yourself some pasta!!!!