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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Bruce Mosley, executive chef at Stir, says he's hopeful group events can return soon to the Chattanooga Choo Choo complex.

A graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, Bruce Mosley has spent the past 30 years working at restaurants around the United States. He interned at Harrah's in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, then moved on to a supper club in Los Angeles following graduation.

"It was the advent of 'California cuisine,' so it was a very fun time to be starting a career as a chef," he says.

From there, he went to La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, and not long after that went to work at P.F. Chang's in its infancy.

"I helped them [P.F. Chang's] open new restaurants across the country until I landed in Washington, D.C., where I went to work for a couple of independent restaurants," he says.

After a few years with the Gordon Biersch Brewery Group helping to open new restaurants and grow their brand, he resettled his family — wife and two kids — in Chattanooga. This past September, he became the executive chef at Stir at the Chattanooga Choo Choo.

"I feel blessed to be at a restaurant in such a wonderful part of the city that has a rich history and is so centrally located," he says.

Q: How do you like working in a historic place like the Chattanooga Choo Choo?

A: My kids love coming to the restaurant and attending special events at the Choo Choo. I hope that we will be able to have group events again here soon. We all miss that aspect of life around here.

Q:Whom do you consider your mentor?

A: Early in my career I did my best to get myself in as many different kitchens as I could so I could be exposed to various cuisines and cooking preparations. I spent most of my formative years in California, where I learned from chef Eliot Swartz in Los Angeles and chef Fred Herman in San Diego. And I spent some time with chef Bernard Guilas in San Deigo, too. I have to say, though, that my love for cooking began with my mother, who was a fantastic cook. She nurtured my love for food and the joy and happiness it can bring to those who you're eating with.

Q: I would imagine you get a lot of tourists, and I know you get a lot of locals. Do you enjoy the mix?

A: Absolutely. I believe all of the passion that the chefs, managers and employees have put in over the years here at the restaurant has created a community atmosphere that is both fun and relaxing. We have a great local following. It seems that whenever I tell someone that I am the chef at Stir, they always respond with: 'Oh, we love going to Stir!' Along with being part of the Choo Choo, we have many first-time visitors as well, thanks to our being located right inside the building. My hope is that they have such a great experience, they will tell their friends to come by if they are visiting our city.

Q: What was your first restaurant job ever?

A: My first job was working at The Salvation Army Officer Training Corps in my hometown as a teenager. It was a sort of retreat house for nonprofits to hold meetings and religious retreats, so our small team would wash dishes, help prepare food, set the dining room, serve and clean up. We also would clean rooms once a group left. I think my starting pay was $3.13 an hour. For a 15-year-old, it was awesome.

Q: The menu at Stir has so many things going on. How would you describe it?

A: Stir is truly a scratch kitchen, utilizing fresh ingredients prepared in an imaginative way. It takes a lot of work to prepare our dishes here, and I think it comes through on the plate. Our focus is on presenting a wonderful cold bar with the finest oysters we can source from around the country. We also have a fantastic cocktail menu. We freeze and carve 300-pound blocks of artisanal ice, make our own syrups and juices, and age some cocktails in oak barrels. We are also fortunate enough to procure some very rare spirits, including the entire Pappy Van Winkle lineup recently. Stir regularly features rare spirits, and we take a lot of pride in being able to feature them.

Q: What's your favorite dish on the menu to prepare?

A: They all are great fun to prepare, but I will tell you that our Chicken Picatta Over Roasted Vegetables and Farro along with the Shrimp and Low Country Grits are two of my favorite to eat.

Q: What seems to be the most popular dish on the menu at Stir?

A: By pure numbers, I would have to say it's our Steak Frittes. The steak sauce, along with the hand-cut fries, makes it a very popular dish. We also have a fantastic brunch that has people waiting outside the door for us to open.

Q: What food is your guilty pleasure?

A: I suppose it would be Mexican food — in particular, tacos. I could eat them five days a week if I had that option. There are just so many ways to prepare them, and it's fun to eat food with your hands, isn't it?

Q: Complete the sentence. If I had not become a chef I would've been a

A: A teacher or perhaps a doctor. I just love being around people and leading a team.

Q: Describe your perfect date night out in Chattanooga. Where would you go and what would you eat?

A: I wish my wife and I had more opportunities to get out on a date. My wife loves ramen, and Two Ten Jack makes a great one. We also love to stroll and window-shop, so that would be part of the evening.

Q: Is there one dish that never fails to give you trouble when you're making it?

A: I'm not a strong pastry chef, so when it comes to baking, I'm pretty good; but my decorating needs a lot of work. I really appreciate it when someone is good at it. Cedric Grolet is one of my favorite Instagram chefs. His work is amazing.

Q: What's the latest trend you're following?

A: Birria tacos, of course. I wish we were able to travel because I would love to go try a few different restaurants' versions of this dish. It's been all the rage lately, and I feel I'm missing out.

Q: What's your favorite spice to use right now?

A: Alchemy Spice is a local spice company that offers a number of blends, as well as restaurant-quality spices that we utilize here at the restaurant. They have several that I like, but I love working with their garam masala.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time when you have any?

A: Work is demanding, but in my free time I do my best to spend it with my family. We love traveling, hiking, fishing, biking and just hanging out together. The kids attend school locally, so we do our best to attend as many of the events they have each year. Once again, I hope we can get back to that as soon as possible because with COVID, we haven't been able to do so.

Q: As more restaurants open at the Choo-Choo and around the Southside, what are you doing at Stir to keep people coming in?

A: I believe a restaurant should do what they do best and, as [Amazon founder] Jeff Bezos says, "Obsess over the customer experience." We focus each day on providing the best experience we can to each and every guest who walks through our door and spends their time and money with us. I also think it's important for all of us in the hospitality business to support one another and wish for new restaurants — and old — to be successful, especially with all that has happened in our industry. If there are more great restaurants around us, it will, in turn, bring more diners to our area and perhaps those who have never eaten at Stir. We do our very best each day to focus on fresh food, fresh oysters and great cocktails served by staff who are genuinely dedicated to providing excellent service. I believe that is the best way to stay relevant.

***

This cheesecake is a favorite at Stir. And Mosley says matcha, ground tea leaves from a green tea, can be found in area stores and online.

Cast-Iron Matcha Cheesecake With Berries

30 saltine crackers

2 cups sugar, divided

2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons butter, divided

2 tablespoons flour

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

1/4 ounce matcha powder

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

4 eggs

Macerated berries:

12 ounces strawberries

6 ounces blueberries

1 tablespoon sugar

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

Place saltines, 1 cup sugar and 2 sticks of butter into food processor, and process until crumbles resemble wet sand.

Rub 2 tablespoons butter on bottom and up sides of a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. Dust pan with 2 tablespoons flour. Cut parchment paper to fit bottom of skillet, and place in inside bottom of skillet.

Evenly place cracker crumb mixture on bottom and up sides of skillet.

Place cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, matcha powder, orange and lime juices into mixing bowl, and whip until until all ingredients are incoporated and smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, and whip until smooth. Pour cheesecake mixture into crust, and bake at 350 degrees for 40-55 minutes or until the filling is set and slightly browned on top. Remove from oven, and place in refrigerator. Allow to cool before cutting. Top with macarated berries, and serve. Makes 10 wedges.

To make berries: Slice strawberries into 1/4-inch slices, about the size of a nickle. Add strawberries with remaining ingredients into a stainless-steel mixing bowl. Gently toss until sugar, juice and zest have coated berries. Refrigerate until needed.

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com or at annebraly.com.

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