By Pete Dulin
June 22, 2016
Q39 chef-owner Rob Magee has announced plans to beef up its bar program with the recent hiring of veteran bar manager Jenn Tosatto. Beginning July 5, Tosatto will build a competition-level bar program at the innovative restaurant known for its wood-fired grill and barbecue menu.
When Tosatto heard about the bar manager position, she jumped at the opportunity.
“I heard through a mutual friend that Rob was looking for a bar manager,” says Tosatto. “I have been a huge fan of Q39’s food, and was thrilled to interview for the position. Rob and I seemed to be on the same page almost immediately. I was thrilled when he offered me the job.”
Magee sought leadership behind the bar as Q39 grows. He plans to expand the original 39th Street location by building a two-level deck and indoor/outdoor bar. Q39 will also add a second location in Johnson County in spring 2017.
The veteran chef connected with Tosatto immediately when they met.
“She’s a great fit, dynamic and high energy,” Magee says. “She’s one of the best in the city at making cocktails. When we expand, she’ll be the lead bartender to train staff at our new location.”
Tosatto brings a wealth of experience to Q39. She learned her bartending skills at Bar Natasha and honed them at The Rieger and, most recently, Dempsey’s Burger Pub in Westport. She has competed and placed multiple times at the Paris of the Plains Cocktail Festival, and is a member of that festival’s board. Tosatto has also coordinated her own bartending contest, Midwest Melee, where bartenders from four different cities compete in Kansas City. Further, she’s earned top recognition in industry competitions and numerous publications.
This proven skillset will be valuable in building Q39’s bar program.
“It begins with a team behind the bar making killer cocktails. I’m excited to get to know the Q39 staff, and work with their talents to create a cohesive team,” says Tosatto. “Then it’s about creating a cocktail menu that pairs exquisitely with the food. Being high volume, it’s getting these drinks out at breakneck speed without sacrificing quality. When we achieve that, we will be a force to be reckoned with.”
Marrying the innate flavors of smoke, savory and sweet from barbecue and grilled food with cocktails, wine and beer is no easy feat. Tosatto and Magee will work closely to draw on their palates and craft in order to fashion a complementary drink menu.
“I haven’t truly decided on anything 100 percent just yet, but I do plan on using smoke,” says Tosatto. “I plan on using it sparingly, and most likely with more acidic flavors. Balanced cocktails are my bailiwick. That mentality behind flavors will keep me in check as far as overpowering palates.”
Magee anticipates a spotlight on bourbon, whiskey and scotch to pair with the bold flavors of barbecue and grilled meat. One idea that he and Tosatto have considered is using smoked beef au jus from Q39’s brisket as an ice cube for cocktail use. In time, they may acquire barrels for aging spirits in house.
“We’ll also develop light summer cocktails to pair with our grilled salmon salad and other dishes,” says Magee.
Lower-alcohol drinks also make a good partner for heavy meals loaded with ample flavor. Look for Tosatto’s use of ports, sherries, Madeiras and vermouths as well as fresh fruit juices and cool drinks for summer weather. Tosatto already has ideas in mind as a champion of Q39’s food.
“Not gonna lie, I’ve gotta make a cocktail to pair with that amazing mac ‘n’ cheese,” she says. “I also really look forward to working with some of the spicier and zestier dishes. Those types of flavors lend themselves in a lovely way to pairings.”
Developing a competition-level bar program at Q39 on par with its food is an extension of Magee’s history of innovative practices and drive for excellence.
“I’ve been in the business for 30 years,” he says. “I look outside at restaurants in other cities like New York and Chicago to see trends like the use of large cubed ice, craft cocktails and the leadership behind bar programs. I want to have people come into Q39 and talk about the food and bar.”