BY ANDREW COPPOLINO
For about six years now, Jake and Humphreys’ Bistro has been serving simple, thoughtfully prepared and delicious food in the heart of New Hamburg.
Co-owners and co-chefs Janet Duncan and Klaus Ristanovic met while they were cooks at the Waterlot in New Hamburg. As for opening their own restaurant – always a big step to take in a tough and competitive industry – Ristanovic alludes to the fact that it happened rather unexpectedly.
“It was a bit of an accident,” he says of purchasing the building which has those great old-house bones and ambiance about it. “Janet noticed the house was for sale, so we checked it out and said this would work fine as a restaurant. It took a little while, but it eventually happened.”
The home was previously a residence, so they did the kitchen build-out and re-design. “The owners had had the home for 50 years and raised 13 kids in it,” says Ristanovic. Jake & Humphreys’ seats about 40, and there will soon be some slight alterations when they add a bar. “That will give us a little more variety for things like craft beer,” he notes.
As for the food, Ristanovic says there are no dishes with 23 ingredients. “It’s simple and straightforward.” With two cooks in the kitchen, he says the rhythm between he and Duncan basically divides tasks down the middle. “I do some prep and the butchery. Janet takes care of the veg and desserts and we share service.”
On the menu currently are butter-seared scallops, herbed goat cheese tart, braised short ribs with hoisin and grilled salmon with Catalan relish.
With their experience in the industry, the pair adjust and adapt to what customers want and expect, Duncan says. The pair take change and trends in stride.
“Customers definitely know more than they used to and are much more informed,” she says. “There’s always awareness of cutting down on glutens or dairy too and that happens in numbers. There also seems to be more people going out to restaurants in groups of six or eight, even ten. Twos are easier, but it does keep us on our toes.”
Jake & Humphreys’ Bistro recently had an open-house inviting other New Hamburg businesses, regular customers and the general public to visit with them and enjoy a bit of food, drink and camaraderie.
“It’s a very nice community,” Ristanovic says where the restaurant is part of the town and the town has become a part of them. “Everybody seems to back each other up and customers support all of the businesses. It’s just a really nice community feeling.”
Rapid-fire round with Klaus Ristanovic and Janet Duncan
Explore Waterloo Region (EWR): Best thing you’ve ever eaten?
Janet Duncan (JD): Mom’s turkey soup.
EWR: Other career you could have pursued?
KR: Industrial design.
JD: Theatre director.
EWR: Favourite beverage?
EWR: Beverage that just about killed you?
EWR: Chef you’d most like to meet?
KR: Marco Pierre White
JD: The one who got “four and 20 blackbirds” into a pie.
EWR: Favourite “international” food in Waterloo Region?
KR: Bhima’s Warung.
JD: Bhima’s Warung.
EWR: What scares you in a kitchen?
KR: Workers with poor knife skills.
JD: Potential cross contamination in severe-allergy guests.
EWR: Greatest failed recipe?
JD: Pie pastry.
EWR: A favourite teacher you’ve had?
KR: Mike King.
JD: Robert Smith at Stratford Chefs School.
EWR: Do you ride a bike?
KR: Not lately.
JD: Not any more.
EWR: Where were you born?
KR: Lagge, Germany.
JD: Stuttgart, Germany.
EWR: For whom would you like to cook?
KR: Mother and Father.
JD: The next reservation.
EWR: The thing you wish for Waterloo Region?
KR: A train stop in New Hamburg.
JD: Bus service to continue and improve both to and from New Hamburg.
EWR: Good-to late-night snack?
KR: Bread with melted cheese.
EWR: Favourite city?
KR: Stratford, Ontario.
JD: Stratford, Ontario.
EWR: TV chefs who annoy you?
JD: James Barber.
EWR: Are you sweet or savoury?