Bart Heath didn't go to culinary school. He's not vegan or vegetarian, and he admits, "I couldn't even cook a grilled cheese when I was 18 and a senior in high school." And yet, the Gulfport native is the new head chef at Jackson's premier vegan and vegetarian-friendly restaurant, High Noon Café.
Heath, 24, played baseball at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, and he still throws the ball around occasionally, but these days he's less of an athlete and more of a spectator. "Mississippi State and the Braves are my two teams," he says.
Though Heath's baseball-playing future looked bright in college, his professional interests turned to food instead. He studied at 27th Avenue Bistro in downtown Gulfport under Chef James Morrow and then followed him to Bello's American Bistro in Ocean Springs and Opus Restaurant in Gautier.
"I was trained in mostly Asian-influenced American food—seafood, steaks," Heath says.
His interest in food stems from his childhood. He traveled a lot with his family when he was younger, and they always ate in nice restaurants. Heath was intrigued by the fine dining lifestyle and the opportunity to create different dishes.
Heath moved to Jackson about a year ago. Six months later, he saw a classified ad for the head chef position at High Noon and decided to go for it. Café manager Brad Hooey gave Heath a chance, and now the young chef is settling into his new role, learning to keep up morale in the kitchen, and figuring out what it means to be in charge of a restaurant.
"It's a lot more responsibility—there's a lot more than just cooking," he says. "It was tough for me at first because I was used to taking orders and being pointed in a direction."
Heath is hitting his stride now, balancing his duties and revamping the menu. His additions include a "messy mushroom" High Noon burger, with sautéed mushrooms, onions, and pepper jack cheese, and a portabella Caesar salad with vegan dressing. The menu won't be completely unfamiliar to High Noon regulars, but Heath is definitely looking to make some changes. He is particularly focused on not only the taste of the food, but its appearance. "When you get a plate of food, that's the first thing you notice," he said.
Heath takes pride in making great food that's good for you, noting that everything at High Noon is made fresh daily, with all organic ingredients and without any hydrogenated oils or GMOs.
"This whole place is about trying something new," Heath says. "If you're wanting to learn something new about eating healthy and learn about this lifestyle, this is the place you need to come."
To concerning customers,
I have been following the chefs work all across the coast for many years now. This chef's expertise is mind-boggling. He can stun you with a assortment of dishes. His knowledge is a gift from god that he shares with anyone in his presence. His following down on the coast is cult-like and with his new trends of food will blow away his competitors. So, move over Paula, Giada, Wolfgang, Rachel, & Emerald, this kid is here to stay and has a downsouth backing that can blow him up to be the biggest primetime chef in the nation.