The true meaning of a chef goes beyond spending hours in the kitchen perfecting a recipe, and inventing a restaurant’s entire menu at 3 a.m.
For a professional chef like David Stern, the kitchen is his home.
“You don’t have customers at home,” he said. “You have guests.”
Carson City is where home is for Stern, and he’s bringing Northern Nevada flavor to town by preparing his first restaurant to open for business — Battle Born Social — a combined restaurant, sports lounge, and tasting room.
“Carson City has a lot of pride,” he said. “We need to feed off of that pride and push the palate in Carson City, and be a part of the growth in Northern Nevada.”
Opening soon downtown at 318 N. Carson St., Battle Born Social contains three atmospheres in one establishment. Decked out in state colors of silver and blue — with a modern, industrial ambience — it offers a place for those looking to chat and meet new people without television, WiFi, or other audible distractions.
However, for those who are looking for a place to watch their favorite sports play, the basement is reserved for televisions, pool table, and an area promoting all-out cheers for teams.
Upstairs near the social bar is a tasting room for those who like to pamper their taste buds, featuring beverages from Carson City’s top breweries and distilleries.
“People love their whiskey here,” Stern said. “There’s common flavors, such as sage and pine. I want to focus on drinks with simplicity.”
Each room will feature small plate selections from a price-conscious menu created by Stern, including cigar options cooperated by Carson Cigar Company.
Stern is so excited to be working with Carson Cigar Company he’s infusing their tobacco in his C3 Pork Chop dish, roasted with apple butter, sauteed kale, and bacon-tomato jam.
When asked about running this sort of business in a town with a predominant demographic of retired and senior citizens, Stern said quality guarantees to attract all ages and income groups.
“It’s about what the customers want — not us,” he said. “When I cooked at other restaurants, I always talked to the customers about what they’re looking for or what they enjoy. Variety is huge in a place like Carson City and the price is important.”
Stern’s business is settled where the Mystique Restaurant & Lounge used to fire up its ovens before it closed in January.
But Mystique also is a part of Stern’s past, where he hailed as executive chef. When the owners of the building heard Stern’s pitch to purchase the space, they trusted his restaurant would be an ideal objective, Stern said.
He won’t be running the restaurant alone, as his mother and father are ambitious to be a part of his new journey.
But for Stern, his inspiration to become a chef goes a few generations back.
“My great grandfather owned a restaurant in Manhattan and my uncle owns one in Palm Springs, Florida.” he said. “I’m an Italian, so food is life. When I was little, I would wake up to the smell of garlic every morning.”
But Stern has been opening up cases of culinary knives since age 15. After graduating culinary school in New York City, he didn’t return to his home in Vista, Calif.
He also didn’t take the proprietor offer from the Outback Steakhouse chain to own a restaurant.
Instead, he landed a job as a chef at Charlie Palmer’s Steakhouse in Reno.
“It was a culture shock for me because of that small town vibe,” Stern said. “But I’ve embraced it. My knowledge grew when I watched Charlie Palmer run the business and talking to guests.”
Stern’s culinary career skyrocketed when he became chef at SoDo, a restaurant and bar in downtown Reno, with owner Joel Giandalia.
“Especially during that time when the economy was struggling, I learned it’s more about working together and growing, not competition.” he said. “I want to be a part of the growth, not the limelight.”
After SoDo, Stern relocated to Centro Bar & Restaurant — also in Reno — as executive chef.
He helped launch the restaurant; wired at 3 a.m., he created their entire menu in an hour.
Stern also was featured in Best Chefs America 2012-14.
“I’ve had the pleasure to work with the best and not with the best,” he said. “I’m not the greatest chef by any means but I love building relationships with customers. I wanted people to be excited at the table.”
Stern intended opening Battle Born Social in Reno but after working at Mystique, it felt right to bring something new to Carson City — with perfection and patience.
“What the bars in Reno have gained is miraculous,” he said. “With the new street layout on Carson Street, it’s going to help us catch up with Reno. But I don’t think Carson City is quite ready for something like that — this town is known for great restaurants like Adele’s and Sassafras, and we need to grow. Perception is reality.”
And since Stern is the mastermind behind the signature brussel sprout plate, once served at Mystique, he plans to bring it back to Battle Born Social, along with cheese-stuffed meatballs with wildberry barbecue sauce.
Stern is ensuring his ingredients are coming from Nevada soil and plans to make 90 percent of his family-style meals gluten-free.
Some of the other goodies on the menu are Lo’s Po’Boy with spicy aioli, toast ponte, and jicama slaw; and deserts such as deconstructed cannoli, macerated with blueberries, banana cream pie, and anisette toast.
Some of the deserts, such as peach cobbler, will be prepared in a mason jar.
“I’ve never used a cookbook or referred to cooking shows,” he said. “I don’t want to feel like I’m stealing someone’s recipe. And I never eat my own recipes; for most chefs, we just taste. It’s the aroma that satisfies our appetite.”
Stern has many dreams to pursue once Battle Born Social opens, such as adding his octopus recipe to the menu, including a daycare across the hall for guests, and open another location in Minden or Gardnerville.
But until then, Stern is focusing on building a future with his business, along with his two sons, Beckham, 2, and Brighton, 5.
“I’m still learning about Carson City’s taste but I’ll never make traditional plates,” he said. “I’m not trying to make it like grandma’s dish; she’s the last person I’ll compete with. But Battle Born Social is not about being the coolest place in Carson City — it’s about being the most comfortable.”