WITH A RESUME THAT SPANS JAMES BEARD AWARD-WINNING RESTAURANTS, FIVE-STAR MEGA-HOTELS, AND EVEN THE OLYMPICS, THIS HIGHLY DECORATED CHEF TURNS TO WARREN, THRILLED TO SERVE HIS NEW JERSEY NEIGHBORS “EUPHORIA” FARE
BY ELIZABETH HAZARD PHOTOS BY ALEX BARRETO AND VIOLET KARYN PHOTOGRAPHY
One year ago, Scott Cutaneo, an acclaimed international chef who’s launched several successful restaurants throughout his career, including local favorites 57 Main at the Oldwick General Store and Le Petit Chateau in Bernardsville, prepared to tackle a new challenge: taking over the reins of an already established American-fusion restaurant. Classically trained in French culinary techniques, the seasoned cuisiner sharpened his skills under some of the most venerated names in the industry, including Michel Guérard and Daniel Boulud. His latest venture, Uproot in Warren, wasn’t his typical format, but Cutaneo is rising to the challenge, one plate of miso butter glazed pork belly at a time.
“This wasn’t in my usual wheelhouse,” said Cutaneo, who’s appeared on Fox News’ Fox & Friends more than 200 times as an expert chef. “I’m a French chef, and I’m really into wine. The wine list at Uproot was really limited. But I realized pretty quickly with the team here that the sky’s the limit and I could really expand upon what was already here. The team really allows me to reach the sky.”
Upon taking over the helm, Cutaneo noted his goal wasn’t to reinvent Uproot, but to elevate it. His team refreshed the bar, lounge, and dining areas to create what he called a modern yet relaxed setting, one that complements a romantic first date as much as a lively family reunion. A self-described student of the psychology of dining, the chef believes dining out should be a euphoric experience, one that charms all the senses. As an avid oenophile himself, one of his first orders of business was to expand Uproot’s wine selection, bringing in a mix of prominent and lesser-known labels that, alongside a robust mixology program, bring out the flavors of the fare. Using custom wine racks, the team also built out a special event room that regularly hosts upscale wine dinners and other events.
“I know that I want to please the guests and that goes into the design, the menu, and the overall experience,” said Cutaneo. “That means more intimacy, changing the lighting, setting the mood. Running a successful restaurant is five percent about the food. There’s so much more to it. It’s about the entire package. I try to control as many variables as I can. I want to maximize the guest experience.”
But the food is indeed one of the reasons Uproot reservations book far in advance. To craft his menu, Cutaneo pulls from a bevy of hyper-local farmers and purveyors, and only uses line-caught or sustainable fish. The time of year often guides the menu options, shifting with the seasons for optimal freshness and authenticity. His intention isn’t to challenge people with his food, he said, but to excite.
Fan-favorite shareables include a crisp tuna tartare, dressing up the fresh fish with hoisin, sesame, scallions, avocado, crunchy garlic, and a pan-seared sticky rice cake; and shrimp tostada, piling sautéed wild-caught shrimp, avocado, fresh mango, and chipotle honey atop a crispy corn tostada chip. There’s also a bao bun, made with pork belly, hoisin, kimchi, and yellow apples; and duck wontons, finished with papaya-mango pepper relish, avocado, sesame, and chipotle mayo.
Light bites include a guava and burrata salad with arugula, walnuts, tomatoes, and a scratch made guava vinaigrette, plus an Asian mango salad with chopped napa cabbage, crispy wontons, and mango sesame dressing. Heartier appetites can choose from a suite of steaks and chops, including a juicy 16-oz prime strip steak, along with a variety of large plates like poached pear pasta, sea bass with green coconut curry, and roasted chicken breast atop a pool of potato leek puree.
“Our clientele is very eclectic, and we work to create a wide array of options that meet their versatile palates,” he said of his menu.
When asked to decide upon a favorite dish, the chef explained it changes according to what’s in season. “It’s hard to make a four-star dish using products that aren’t in season,” he said. “Spring and summer, for instance, are so great in New Jersey for fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Now with a full year under his belt at Uproot, Cutaneo trumpeted the talents of his team with the restaurant’s rousing success, particularly his general manager Joshua Grund fest and assistant manager/social media coordinator Maileen Novo. “Without my team, I am nobody,” he added.
He also credits the community for their support, describing Warren as a rapidly developing area that fits well with the approachable, welcoming environment of Uproot.
With a resume that spans several decades and notable establishments, Cutaneo has fed many VIPs over the course of this career. When asked to choose his dream dinner guest, Cutaneo said, “It’s not about who I’m cooking for, it’s about providing an experience that will leave guests feeling euphoric. To me, each and every guest is just as important as the next, as is each and every plate.”
Chef Cutaneo has worked alongside some of the most talented names in the culinary world. Whether in a James Beard Award-winning restaurant in New York City, a luxury hotel in Europe, or a worldwide stage like the Olympics, Cutaneo has always found himself in the kitchen. Looking back on the years, he’s quick to point out he feels like he has never worked a day in his life.
“It’s easy when you’re doing well and you love what you do,” he said. “I love Uproot, and it’s certainly scalable with the incredible team here. I hope to pass along my knowledge and I want my legacy to be the respect I’ve earned.”
9 Mt Bethel Road, Warren / 908.834.8194 / uprootrestaurant.com