Written by Hannah Saulters | Photographed by Paul Wolf
Eighty bucks. If you’re Chaz Lindsay, that’s all you need to start a pasta company. Well, that, and a resume that boasts a degree from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), work experience in Michelin-starred restaurants, references from Tom Colicchio and a brief stint trapping pheasants in Italy. Only in his late twenties, Lindsay’s journey as a chef has taken him from Mississippi to New York to Italy and, luckily for Jackson’s food scene, back again.
It was a roundabout way that Lindsay returned to the Magnolia State. What he intended to be a break at home before moving on to New Orleans or one of several job offers around the world, has since evolved into a long-term business (and life) plan, including starting and expanding his own Belhaven Pasta Company and opening Estelle, a bar and bistro in the new Westin downtown.
Although he could have been a rock guitarist, a ballet dancer, or a lawyer, Lindsay found himself drawn to cooking after working at Pan Asia and Mint in high school. His impression of restaurant life being “nothing but a party” was quickly dismantled upon his arrival at the CIA, an experience he quips, “is the closest thing to military school you can get without, you know, being in the military.”
Despite the rigorous class schedule and strict dress code, Lindsay found himself excelling in school and landed the first of several big jobs in his career: an “externship turned gap year” at Eleven Madison Park, a 3-Michelin Star restaurant in New York City. “I knew it was a big deal,” Lindsay, the youngest person in the kitchen, remembers. “But, I didn’t realize the work that went into it.”
An incredibly intense experience, Lindsay credits his time plating shrimp roulade for a month straight with the more exacting habits he still practices: “keeping towels folded, always having a clean apron, sharpening your knives before service, making sure that when you cut a label from tape that the edges are square and not ripped.”
Lindsay’s own style mirrors his personality: relaxed. It’s rooted in creating simple food using exceptional ingredients, an approach he honed working first as a line cook and advancing to sous-chef position by the age of twenty-three at Tom Colicchio’s restaurants Colicchio and Sons and Craft shortly after leaving the CIA. “These are the restaurants where I really, really learned the craftsmanship of cooking,” Lindsay remarks. ”It’s where I fell in love with pasta. I was making all the pasta in the restaurant and building these invaluable relationships with farmers.”
Although he’s clearly respectful of the craft, Lindsay doesn’t take himself too seriously, a quality that, despite his love of these restaurants and their teams, allowed him to quit his job, take what he jokingly estimates was an 800% pay cut and move to Italy. Armed with the fundamentals of pasta making and a desire to see something other than a cramped kitchen and crowded subway cars, Lindsay traveled to an olive-farm-turned-bed-and-breakfast, where he lived in a horse stable and practiced farm-to-table cooking in its purest form.
“The menu was based off of what we had in the garden that day. If I had trapped a pheasant we would use that. If we’d slaughtered a bull, I was going to use every part of it until we ran out.” These principles, surprisingly, motivated Lindsay to return to Jackson. “I could go home and do some good,” he says, “there are a lot of small farmers here producing some interesting stuff… some people are utilizing it, but there need to be more and it needs to be better.”
Despite his seemingly fly-by-the-seat-of-his pants attitude, Lindsay has a clear vision for just how to do more and better. Frustrated by the pasta he encountered around town, Lindsay saw potential for improvement and took the absence of a high-quality, fresh product into his own hands. Literally. Quick to express gratitude for the support he’s received from local chefs and restaurateurs, Lindsay acknowledges, “Guys aren’t doing a bad job at all, that’s not what I’m saying,” but he has this experience. Why not put it to use? In a matter of weeks this past spring, he purchased a food mill and a few other essential tools to start making gnocchi by hand. The Manship was his first client. Shortly after, Lou’s Full-Serve followed. With these gigs and freelance private dinners, Lindsay was able to purchase an Arcobaleno machine and formally create Belhaven Pasta Company.
Although at the moment, he’s only supplying to Manship, Lou’s, and more recently, Barrelhouse, there are big plans on the horizon. By the holidays, Lindsay hopes to have expanded in production, hired staff and created an infrastructure for selling Belhaven Pasta retail. Still hammering out the details, building a business plan and negotiating the ins and outs of cottage-industry laws, the possibility of packaging and selling his various pastas–ravioli, fusilli, bucatini, oreichiette–seems viable.
Running the company and helping to open Estelle will take time, but Lindsay has a foolproof plan for surviving the next few months: “I’m just not going to sleep. It’s going to be tricky, but I didn’t come back to Jackson to sit on my ass.”
Since publication, Lindsay has taken on a new role, posting just this weekend to his Instagram account, @BelhavenPastaCo: “BIG NEWS. I’m going to be transitioning my main focus intoÂ @parlormarketÂ please come and enjoy fresh pastas made fresh daily!”