Chef Spotlight: Harrison Schailey, Harrison's Wine Grill and Catering

Tell us how you got started:

I started working with food with Andy Zangrelli at Great America (where Hi Way North is now located). After apprenticing with chefs in Chicago and working as a chef on several cruise ships, I moved to California and worked with the San Francisco Garden Project, training at restaurants like Chez Panisse. Restaurant-supported agriculture was just getting started in California in the mid-'90s, and it changed the way I looked at food. Restaurants were using locally-grown food in their dishes, which provided quality ingredients and supported the local community at the same time. I brought that mindset back with me when I started Harrison's here in State College. I wanted to use the best ingredients I could find in the most interesting way I could.

Tell us about your motto "Local, Seasonal, Globally-inspired":

The core of our motto is about the creative challenge of taking familiar ingredients and using them in unfamiliar and exciting ways. That is how I approach building seasonal menus: How can I make a tomato exciting in August, when everyone has a ton of them? That’s how we came up with our Summertime Italian menu that’s inspired by the cuisine from the Isle of Capri. A lot of the dishes are so simple, but that’s the beauty of it. The freshness and quality of the ingredients really get to take a lead role. Food doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious.

Why Happy Valley?

We came back because it's a good place to raise kids. We knew that Happy Valley is a small town with a big city feel. The university gives the area a big city feel, and people here understand good food. On the other side, we have the benefits of a small town. I can ask our providers — Tait Farm and Green Heron — to grow vegetables specifically for our seasonal menus. In bigger cities, you just have to buy what is available, and the prices are exponentially higher, especially for organics.

What are some of 2018's seasonal dishes?

That’s a tough question because I’m never quite sure what I’ll be inspired to make when it’s time to create the menu. Our feature menus change monthly, with focuses on regions like Capri, Italy and France. This spring, I’m traveling to Portugal and Spain and I’m excited to taste new dishes and get inspired by those cuisines while I’m there. Who knows, maybe we’ll be seeing a tapas menu at Harrison’s soon!

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