Chef Douglas Katz always dreamed of working in restaurants.
He got his start at a young age, working as a busser, and even ran his own catering company in high school. Now, Katz is making his dreams a reality as Cleveland-based chef and restaurateur. And he’s joining the healthcare segment through his new role as chef-partner with Morrison Healthcare at Cleveland Clinic.
Fueled by a passion for feeding people, Katz plans to work with Morrison to develop innovative healthy menus and collaborate with the culinary team to try new things.
“Really, the goal is to work with the employees and work within the hospital and see what ways we can create new maybe new techniques, practices and work with the chefs to give new ideas on ways to create healthier food,” said Katz.
The partnership is in its beginning phases, and Katz said he will spend some time getting to know the operation and brainstorming ideas to better meet diners wants. However, some initiatives that may be in the works are crafting seasonal menus and holding community events through teaching kitchens, according to a statement.
“We are thrilled to welcome Chef Katz to the team and are excited for the culinary innovation he will bring to the hospital," said Avi Pinto, central division president for Morrison Healthcare. "Chef Katz shares our vision that food plays a critical role in the healing process, providing strength for patients to recuperate and sustenance to caregivers who are providing life-saving care.”
Katz, who owns two Cleveland-area restaurants—Zhug and Amba, an Indian-inspired concept—plans to use his new role to energize the local food scene by connecting the clinic to the greater community.
“The Cleveland Clinic has been there," said Katz. "And it's so much a part of our community, and when I think about Zhug, which is about five minutes up the street from the clinic. And I think if the interactions transpire, I mean, the amount of customers that we get because the Cleveland Clinic is so close to our community.”
Katz has another concept, dubbed Chimi, in the works, and he's also chef partner of Provenance at The Cleveland Museum of Art. Throughout his career, Katz has strived to create innovative concepts with a focus on healthy sustainable food with authentic flavors.
A look at Katz’s career
Though he knew he wanted to work in kitchens as a kid in North Dakota, Katz believed having a business background would be a great way to fuel his entrepreneurial plans. So he studied business at the University of Denver, and also received a degree in restaurant and hotel management.
From there, Katz worked at a hotel in Boston and eventually moved to Portland, Ore., where he spent time at a farm-to table restaurant called Wildwood and, later, at a hotel in Colorado. While serving as the chef at a Cleveland restaurant, Moxie, he decided to open his first restaurant there, another farm-to-table concept called Fire.
“We bought all the products at the farmers market," said Katz. "We connected with farmers and learned the story of the farmers.”
The restaurant was built around the kitchen, so wherever guests sat, they would be treated to a view of the wood-fired oven.
The restaurant closed in 2020 due to the pandemic. That’s when Katz launched his Mediterranean concept, Zhug, which is describes as having a "melting pot of flavors." The menu takes inspiration from Turkish, Moroccan and Indian cuisine.
“We took a trip to Israel [and] went to, I don’t know, 60 to 80 restaurants and really brought back that feel to Cleveland,” said Katz.
The concept eventually went to a takeout-and-delivery model because of the pandemic, and Katz decided to launch two ghost kitchens as a way to research and foster new ideas. One concept he developed during this time was Amba, which he opened a brick-and-mortar version of in May 2022.
The names of his restaurants are inspired by flavors or condiments—amba is a pickled mango chutney used in India, while zhug is a Middle Eastern blend of herbs, chiles and toasted spices. And Katz's new restaurant in the works, Chimi, is a play on chimichurri.
Keeping it simple
Katz's culinary philosophy thrives on keeping things straightforward. He noted that while some people may not describe his food as simple at first glance, when it comes to preparation and technique, he leans on the basics.
“In my mind, it is it's about, you know, how you prepare ... the food with proper techniques simply and how you train people to chop the garlic and how to clean the garlic and how to clean your greens and how to it's all about the basic,” he said.
Additionally, creating great quality food starts with great quality ingredients, Katz said. He plans to weave this philosophy of simplicity into his new partnership with Morrison.
“I think just aligning yourself with all of the people you're working with, and that's when you will create great food and and great opportunity for growth,” he said. “To me, it's keeping it simple, and it's making little changes and it's like a staircase. It's like, step one, step two, step three, step four, not trying to do too much at one time.”