Nestled on Franklin Street overlooking the water of Bristol Harbor, The Beehive Café is an established favorite amongst locals and tourists alike. Leading the kitchen team is Jamez Day, a Virginia native who’s made Rhode Island his home for the past 20 years. Having honed his skills at Providence favorite Julian’s, he’s now bringing culinary creativity and a collaborative kitchen atmosphere to The Beehive Café.
Having done a little pre-interview stalking of your social media pages I saw that you state your profession as Culinary Magician. What do you mean by that?
I don’t necessarily like kitchen titles like, say, “head chef” or “sous chef.” I consider myself to be a part of everything in the kitchen. I’ve worked in pretty much every kitchen position over the years so I like to think by taking a step back from being a typical head chef, who may not be cooking on the line, I’m working hand to hand with my team. I’m next to them, not above them.
That collaborative kitchen approach really shows in the creativity, especially when it comes to your use of local, seasonal foods. Is the use of local something you’re passionate about?
Absolutely. We try to use as much local produce and products as we can. Arruda’s Dairy is our dairy farm, Baffoni’s Poultry [Farm] supplies our chicken and our eggs, we get pretty much all our cheeses from Narragansett Creamery, all our burgers use Aquidneck Farm ground beef and we’re part of Market Mobile Farm Fresh from which we order our seasonal vegetables to incorporate into the specials.
Even before I started there was a barter system here with locals bringing in produce they’ve grown in their gardens. I’ve tried to continue that mentality and that connection to the local community.
Being from Virginia, do you try and bring some Southern influences and experiences to the menu here?
I do a lot of comfort food. A lot of Southern foods are generalized as greasy and fried, but we try to keep the comfort and the flavor whilst keeping it healthful. We’ve just put a new succotash dish on the menu, which is a typical Southern dish, but we’re using local beans and local corn, so it’s actually a really light, really fresh dish. We bake eggs right into the succotash for a nice breakfast dish as well, so it’s got that Southern flair but we’re also making it healthy.
There are a lot of vegetarians around here. When I was in Virginia I worked at a vegetarian restaurant for years so I always had that vegetarian, clean, healthy food aspect to what I try to present.
The café isn’t the only Beehive in Bristol. Tell me about The Beehive Pantry.
We opened it last year, and it’s been going really well. When Jen Cavallaro, the owner, opened this place in 2007 she opened it to be what The Beehive Pantry is now: a bakery with bread, pastries and coffee.
The Beehive Café started as a small coffee shop, then we started doing some sandwiches, then lunch, maybe open for dinner a night or two and it snowballed from a grassroots bakery to a full fledged restaurant. Customers were coming in saying, “I’d love to come here and eat everyday, you guys should do this everyday,” and that’s pretty much what happened.
Jen opened the pantry to recapture the sensibility and the dream of something small and something unique that also reflects the reputation we have here.
Amongst all those menus and specials, do you have a favorite thing to cook?
Eggs. Eggs can be the easiest and also the toughest things to cook. Some chefs may be able to make fabulous pates and specialty dishes, [but] I pride myself on being a good breakfast chef. I think being able to cook good eggs is a real testament to a true chef.
If eggs are your favorite thing to cook, what’s your favorite thing to eat?
Pasta and eggs, I love them both! I love making handmade pasta; it’s a passion I’ve been developing over the past few years here. I make a nice chicken noodle soup where I actually hand roll the noodles.
The Beehive Café
10 Franklin Street, Bristol