THE BLOG
10/29/2014 09:03 am ET Updated Dec 29, 2014

Love Letters: Cleveland

As a proud Clevelander, award-winning chef Jonathon Sawyer has worked tirelessly to help elevate the culinary landscape of his hometown with his restaurants, including his newest venture, Trentina. He's also behind The Greenhouse Tavern, Noodlecat, Sawyer's Street Frites and Sausage & Peppers at the Cleveland Browns' stadium and SeeSaw Pretzel Shoppe at the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers. When Sawyer is not in the kitchen, he is surrounded by his family; his wife, Amelia; son, Catcher; daughter, Louisiana; dogs Potato and Vito; and chickens Acorn, Bunny, Bear, and Squid. He is an avid cyclist, as well as a tireless supporter of local agriculture and sustainable businesses both in Northeast Ohio and around the country.

Dear Cleveland,

Our love story starts like any other. Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Girl breaks boy's heart. Boy moves away. Girl follows. Boy falls in love with girl. Girl falls in love with boy. Boy and girl move home to Cleveland.

Growing up in Cleveland gives me found memories of climbing trees, riding bikes on Ashwood Dr., picking tomatoes from my mom's garden, sneaking out of my house to visit my girlfriend (now wife), embracing and falling in love with art at The Cleveland Art Museum, and my lifelong relationship with Cleveland sports teams. As lovely as those memories are of you, dear Cleveland, it wasn't enough to make me fall in love with you. By the time I was ready for college, my mind and body couldn't leave you fast enough. I wanted more, I wanted to hit the concrete - and the kitchen -running.

After stints in Miami, Rome, and Pittsburgh I moved to New York City and walked for days in and out of kitchens, restaurant to restaurant looking for my first chef job. I found a home in Charlie Palmer's Kitchen 22. I missed you, dear Cleveland, but this was my time to learn. My days were long, and my nights were longer, but I was wickedly happy. I had fallen in love with New York City and it became my home. I put you on the backburner Cleveland. I had to, for had I not I would never have been able to love you as much as I do now.

I worked hard and when I found out I was expecting a baby with my girlfriend, I knew Cleveland would become my home again. My heart still belonged to New York but when I came home to tell our family the good news, I found something in you, dear Cleveland, something that I hadn't seen before was now shining brightly. There was a current moving through the people and the streets that I had never felt before. The stories of the river burning and the Browns sucking, the old curmudgeons scared of downtown were still there but something about you was different. There was a glow to you, dear Cleveland, and it sucked me in. You were the "New Cleveland."

I fell hard for you Cleveland after I opened my first restaurant, The Greenhouse Tavern. Looking back I was so ambitious bringing a restaurant of that size to your downtown streets that, until recently, were barely filled with bodies. But I had a feeling Cleveland, and I am happy to say I was right. I fell hard for you, Cleveland, that day in April 2009 when the restaurant filled with 400 people for our "friends and family" opening. My love for you exploded that day! I continued to fall madly, deeply in love while your condos and apartments filled to capacity, while your restaurants opened and chefs filled the city. My madness for you became almost too much to bear after MOCA opened and the Art Museum that brought me so much happiness as a child built the most beautiful space inside of you, it's atrium. I fell in love with you a little bit more this summer after you hosted the Gay Games, Cleveland. Seeing our city full of compassion, kindness, and people made me so proud to call you my love.

Like any love story, ours is just beginning and each day I fall more and more in love with you. Here's to forever.

Love,
Jonathon Sawyer