An Interview with Jonathan Haffmans, Executive Chef and Owner
People have been journeying to quaint old Cape Cod for centuries. The village of Orleans, is a wonderful seaside town. Locally owned shops line the main street while Nauset Beach and Rock Harbor entice nature lovers and artists the world over. Orleans is a wonderful destination for your next day trip or vacation.
There are plenty of villages on the Cape where you dine on a hearty clam chowder, fried clams and a good lobster roll. Yet, there are times when a local or visitor wants to taste something a bit different, a bit extraordinary.
Enter Vers Restaurant.
Vers is a locally owned, family-run business operated by Chef Jonathan Haffmans and his wife and General Manager, Karen Haffmans. Together with Chef de Cuisine Jeremiah Reardon, they have created a truly unique food experience combining the presentation and technique of fine European restaurants with the casual and laid back flair people visiting Cape Cod have come to expect.
At your table, Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho might be followed by Seared Rare Tuna, Vineyard Shiitake, Brewster Bok Choy, Pickled Kohlrabi, Smoked Onion Nage and finished with a Triple Chocolate Semifreddo, Rainier Cherry, Miso Caramel, Kinako. Fine wines, regional brews and a Vers tasting menu draw you in while you sit in the relaxed, comfortable cafe style atmosphere. Sounds amazing, right?
We headed down to Orleans to learn more about the Chefs and their inventive cuisine and new patisserie. We begin with our interview with Executive Chef Jonathan Haffmans who hails from the Netherlands.
When did you become interested in food? How did you become a chef?
I have always been interested in food. I grew up on a farm and if given the choice, I would always chose the chore that had something to do with food over anything else. Gathering the eggs or the honey, even helping with the dishes in the kitchen, were more important to me than laundry.
Eventually, I went to college for Culinary Arts and Restaurant & Hotel Management in The Netherlands and worked in kitchens throughout Europe, the Caribbean and the United States.
What made you realize that you wanted to become a chef?
One of my earliest jobs was at Café Brasserie Dudok in Rotterdam as a barista/bar back. I would watch the chefs put out interesting and flavorful food and just knew I wanted to be one of them.
How has your European heritage influenced your views on cooking and cuisine?
Convenience products are not as prevalent in Europe so I am more inclined to make menu items from scratch. Chicken stock from chicken and not pre-made from a can. Also, we do not have as much of the availability of year-round produce in Europe. We are limited to working with what is in season, which is what we are trying to do at Vers. The restaurant name Vers means “fresh” in Dutch.
Can you talk about how you use fresh, local ingredients at Vers? Also, do you have any favorite New England food sources, such as farms, fisheries or local brands that you use regularly in preparing the menu?
We work with the local fishermen as well as local farmers to provide our customers with the freshest food possible. If it’s in season, we’re serving it. Some of our favorite vendors are: Chatham Bars Inn Farm, Cape Cod Organic Farm, Cape Cod Seafarm, Chatham Fish & Lobster, Orleans Seafood, MVM Edibles, Devil’s Purse and Mayflower Brewing Companies to name a few.
What’s your favorite meal to make at home?
When I’m home, I like to make very simple but flavorful meals. Roasted chicken with pancetta and olives. Rib-eye steak and lobster on the grill.
Can you describe the cuisine at Vers? What should visitors expect?
Visitors can expect a vibrant and casually elegant restaurant offering modern American cuisine that embraces regional seasonality and freshness. Some sample menu items include: Hamachi Crudo, Vermont Rabbit Paillard, House-made Ricotta Gnocchi, Chatham Hake and Hudson Valley Magret Duck. And as always, we still feature our popular Truth or Dare dessert.
Can you tell us bit about your team?
We have a fantastic team! Our new Chef de Cuisine, Jeremiah Reardon, joined the Vers team in our Orleans location and has been integral to the restaurant’s development and success from the start. Many of our front of house servers moved with us from Chatham to Orleans so we still feel like a small family.
What’s the best part about owning Vers?
The best part of owning Vers is sharing our love and passion of food and wine with our customers and employees. The restaurant is an extension of our home and our lives.