It seems natural that Bogardus became a chef, listening to her describe her upbringing, living with her parents and three brothers on a hobby farm, eating eggs and drinking milk from their own property. They would make their own cheese, too.
Bogardus cut her teeth in kitchens in her teens before going to culinary school at NSCC. Her first kitchen job was at The Ardmore Tea Room as a dishwasher and busser at the age of 15. She was in awe of the speed and routine involved with cooking.
“I would just watch the line cooks pumping it out,” she says, until one day during a rush, she asked if she could help, and they let her make toast for about 10 minutes before she felt like she was getting in the way and slowing them down. That was just the beginning.
Since graduating NSCC in 2015 Bogardus has worked as sous-chef at Bistro Le Coq and Brooklyn Warehouse before joining Gray’s team at TWTETN. Becoming the head chef means that Bogardus has an entire menu to play with, and with all the food made in-house and all product locally sourced, that means the menu is constantly changing based on availability and the seasons.
Ideas for dishes have to be supported by what is available or already preserved, says Bogardus. She keeps books and written notes of ideas and dishes and then when something pops up locally that will work with one of those ideas, it might make its way onto the menu. She won’t buy from a big food supplier that orders international produce just to fulfil an idea.
Sarah d’Apollonia, East Coast Wild Foods’ owner, brings Bogardus new products to try when she is doing deliveries. Bogardus says having that sort of relationship with local suppliers, farms and growers
Pickles, ferments and cured meats are also fundamental to the menu. Bogardus needs to make like a squirrel and save up for leaner months when her local produce suppliers aren’t harvesting. And though she likes dreaming up new concepts and food ideas, sometimes the simplest things get her the most excited, she says, like a s’more she made for the dessert menu. While the idea is classic, she makes every component in-house, from the graham cracker to the marshmallow, which is the added challenge.
In addition to having a creative outlet, Bogardus says that one of the best parts of working with Gray and their team is the level of organization.
Whether she is preserving local seaweed to emulate salted capers or curing meat for charcuterie, Bogardus is focused and meticulous. “Good things take time,” she says. With the style of TWTETN relying so much on local produce, preserves and charcuterie, patience and planning
“I never had a microwave growing up, I ate my first McDonald’s cheeseburger in high school. I’m not going to Costco and buying the naan”—she says pointing to the garlic fingers currently on The Watch’s menu—“everything is from scratch.”
Although she says people tried to dissuade her from making this her career—because it was too high pressure or too hard—Bogardus is hooked.
“It’s like a sport, it’s exciting. You get such a feeling of happiness when people think the food is great.”