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Jackson Hole, Wyo.-It’s always a good sign when the chef feeding you is wearing a T-shirt that reads “Pig Slayer” across the chest. In fact, one could even assume that it is surely an indication of excellent, pork-laden food to come, and in the amiable and good-natured, if slightly shy, presence of Chef Joshua Governale that’s exactly what I got.
Governale, executive chef and co-owner of Café Genevieve, doesn’t mess around when it comes to meat. “I guess that’s why our logo is a pig,” he explains as he stacks a hunk of goat Gouda on a thickly sliced piece of truffled salami. “I just love pork.”
This clarity of vision doesn’t just apply to Governale’s protein choices, though. It has afforded him, with business partner Fred Peightal, the opportunity to successfully open one of Jackson’s best-loved restaurants, which yes, has found an almost cult following in its popular pork vittle, Pig Candy.
Governale came to Jackson in 2006 when former coworker and friend Jeff Drew called him up for a position at Snake River Grill. After four years as a cook and two as a sous chef in the operation, Governale ventured out with kitchen station partner Fred Peightal to open Slopeside Rendezvous, and not long after, when they heard that local breakfast staple Jedediah’s was closing on the Town Square, they decided to check out the spot.
“When we heard Jed’s was shutting down, we went to go see it and basically said ‘fuck this’ because the place was so beat up,” Governale said as he flipped some fatty pork belly in the frying pan. “But then Freddy and I went home, had a few vodka drinks, threw some ideas around, and we decided to go back.”
Café Genevieve opened its doors May 7, 2010, paying homage to both Governale’s family heritage and Jackson’s history. His father’s New Orleans upbringing supplied the idea for Southern cuisine, and Genevieve Van Vleck, the leader of Wyoming’s famous “Petticoat Government,” and owner of the 1906-erected cabin that now houses the restaurant, inspired the name.
“The Café Genevieve crew is truly a family,” said Governale, liberally coating a ham and green bean salad with a spicy Siracha dressing. “We really are best friends; I mean, I see Genevieve as a family run restaurant. Every successful person surrounds themselves with great people, and that’s what I feel like I have here.”
With a loyal customer base that fills the dining room daily, a newly refinished deck, the overwhelming popularity of the restaurant’s bluegrass Wednesdays, and a highly sought-after catering business, Café Genevieve seems to be here to stay.
“I’ve eaten and worked at places like the French Laundry, but my style is more fun.
I’ve never worn my suit that I’ve had for years, and I think that’s how it should be,” Governale explained between mouthfuls of Banh Mi, a Vietnamese sandwich recipe he’s testing for an upcoming event. “I just love cooking for people and seeing their facial expressions when they take that first bite. That’s how you learn what works.”
My facial expression must have made my feelings obvious as I bit down into my messy, hugely savory pork-laden sandwich, because Governale grinned.
Café Genevieve is open from 8 a.m. daily with happy hour from 3:30 to 5 p.m. 732-1910.