Chef John Varanese has built a reputation not only on his impeccable culinary skills, but also on his creativity. This Johnson and Wales graduate focuses on using local ingredients from farmers he trusts. He is so committed to local, that he is co-producing the television show “Big World of Food“, which educates viewers on the importance of local farms’ to the food on their tables.
Chef Varanese has earned numerous awards and has represented the State of Kentucky’s Dept of Aquaculture for three consecutive years at the Great American Seafood Cook-Off in New Orleans. He was one of only 16 chefs in the State of Kentucky to be invited to prepare a special dinner with James Beard chefs from around the U.S. at the World Equestrian Games in October of 2010. He is currently on the Kentucky Restaurant Association’s Board of Directors.
We asked Chef Varanese to share a recipe that he felt exemplified summer. He shared his Pan Seared Florida REd Grouper and told us: “I enjoy cooking this kind of style in the summer. It’s hot outside and people tend to lose their appetites. I know I don’t eat very much. This dish screams summer! A fresh filet of fish seared and baked, served over the chilled couscous, accompanied with the fresh watermelon and tomatoes – which my farmers have in abundance – they add a cool and refreshing sensation to the dish. In addition, the preserved lemon vinaigrette adds just the right amount of citrus and sweetness to round out the dish.” Chef John Varanese
Four 8oz filets grouper (or other thick white fish)
Salt and pepper
Heat a large skillet with enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Dredge fish in flour and salt & pepper. Sear in pan until it browns, then flip and place in 400 degree oven for 5-7 minutes until desired doneness. Serve with cashew and pea tendril couscous, heirloom tomatoes, wedges of seedless watermelon and preserved lemon vinaigrette.
1 tsp preserved lemon, peels only, minced
2 tbls honey
1oz rice vinegar
4oz blend oil 80/20
Salt and pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a squirt bottle and shake well before serving.
1 cup couscous
1 ¼ cup hot water
½ cup cashews, toasted and chopped
1 cup snow pea tendrils
2 tbls extra virgin oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Place couscous and hot water in mixing bowl and stir. Cover with plastic wrap until all water is absorbed. Use a fork and flake out on sheet tray and let cool. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix, and season to taste.
Varenese Restaurant is located at 2106 Frankfort Avenue in Louisville, Kentucky’s Historic Clifton neighborhood.
Hours of Operation
Sun-Thu 5:00–11:00 pm
Fri-Sat 5:00 pm – 12:00 am
Varanese’s creative New American menu features an array of options from stuffed grape leaves, and fried green tomato salad, seared boneless pork chop, and caramelized orange salmon. Delectable desserts include a fried banana accompanied by a house-made oatmeal cookie dough ice cream. Varanesse comfortably seats 150 guests between its bar, dining room and four seasons patio. The four seasons patio of Varanese is an addition to the building, which has a dramatic 20-foot slate water wall. The space is enclosed by a serpentine of glass doors, which retract to offer an outdoor dining experience.