The Chef’s Story: Judy Klumick of Black Sheep

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Judy Klumick of Black Sheep enjoys fishing on a fall day off. — Photo courtesy of Judy Klumick

Martha’s Vineyard has no shortage of restaurants, and behind each one, there’s a top-of-the-line chef. The Times decided to get to know these epicurean wonders, and is presenting its findings in a weekly series. Judy Klumick will be part of this year’s “A Rock Star Adventure with Cheese, Charcuterie, and Wine, ” seminar at the M.V. Food and Wine Festival on Saturday, October 18. For more information, visit mvfoodandwine.com.

Judy Klumick’s relationship with cooking didn’t begin as a fiery barbecue that singes the outside and leaves the insides just cooked. It was more like a slow, careful braise that heats all the way through to the heart. After 30-some-odd years, the affair is still going strong. After developing the food selection at Morning Glory Farm for 12 years, she’s landed at Black Sheep: a combination fromagerie, charcuterie, and restaurant on Main Street in Edgartown.  With this new spark in the romance, she’s bringing the lowly pizza and mac and cheese to great new heights.

How did you come to be on the Island?

Martha’s Vineyard via Vermont. We [she and husband Jack Klumick] sold our restaurant in Vermont and my husband interviewed with Jim Moore at the Kelley House for a manager job at The Newes from America pub. He went over and within a month I packed up the house and moved here. That was in 1997.

How and when did you start cooking?

I started cooking out of necessity when I was probably 16. Just being the youngest of eight, mealtime was always kind of a hassle at home. I cooked for myself a lot. I found that I really enjoyed the home-ec part of school and really nothing else. I actually majored in culinary arts all through high school. I did an off-site program. So, I started playing around with cooking and was kind of pushed into the career and realized I really enjoyed it at our restaurant in Vermont. From there I did several other things like catering and cooking in other people’s homes. It didn’t really blossom until I came to Morning Glory Farm in 2001. That’s when I really started getting into cooking and enjoyed it.

How did you come to be at Black Sheep?

The Black Sheep is what I like to call serendipitous. I was with my step-daughter at the St. Patrick’s Day parade. She introduced me to [a man named] Keith and said I was a chef. He said “Oh! I want you to meet my partner.” So we walked over to the Black Sheep and I met his partner, Mark Venette. He was changing his venue at Black Sheep from a wine bar [Trio] at night and the Black Sheep shop during the day. Mark was finding that the Black Sheep was really gaining momentum. He wanted to change the venue to have more prepared foods and a bigger catering menu. I was looking for a job, but he wasn’t really sure what direction he wanted to go as far as changing venues. A few weeks went by and he came up with a plan and proposal. So, Mark and I met and decided he was going to move forward with the change of venue. We just clicked as friends, and as future boss and employee and we had a wonderful summer. I think it went way beyond his expectations of what it was going to do. That was just this past spring.

Have you ever had a major cooking disaster?

I’ve had so many. My career’s been so long, I’ve done every disaster I think you could possibly do — from injuries to recipe screw-ups. It’s a really hard business. You have your really, really good days and your really bad days. It changes every day.

What’s your favorite MV dining experience?

Hands down, Right Fork Diner in Katama. It’s probably the best place on the Island as far as attitude, service, and food. Jamie Langley is an amazing owner. It’s definitely one of those hidden gems.

And the Thai place (Bangkok Thai Cuisine in Oak Bluffs). It’s always the same, the people are always nice. You know what you’re getting.

Favorite dish on your menu?

I do a really nice duck ragout with homemade pappardelle pasta. It’s just a really nice winter dish. My favorite cooking style is braising.

What do you cook for your husband for a romantic evening at home?

He really loves linguine with a fresh clam sauce. I’ll start cooking more, but right now he’ll just grab something at the Net Result and we’ll have a big salad. Now we’re starting to want to have those bigger meals.

What are your top five indispensable ingredients?

Salt, definitely. Everything needs salt.

Garlic

Olive Oil

Sriracha

Black Pepper, fresh ground.

Do you have a favorite kitchen tool?

I love my lemon reamer. It’s definitely a must-have.  And a good chef’s knife.

What songs do you listen to when you’ve got the kitchen to yourself or don’t care who hears?

Probably Daft Punk or some mix from Pandora. Something by Colin Hay from Men at Work. His stuff is always good.

What is your idea of a perfect day off on Martha’s Vineyard?

This time of year, on a sunny day like this, doing the Derby is perfect. I love to fish. Summertime days off, you’re just so exhausted you do housework and sit at the beach for an hour.

If it could be anywhere in the world, where would you open your second restaurant?

I love the east coast. I would like to be up in the Rockport, Maine, area. Or if I were to go abroad, I’d probably be in Northern Italy.

What would you be if you weren’t a chef?

I definitely would be working with animals, as a vet tech or something that has to do with taking care of animals, large or small.