Owners of Prep & Pastry have tapped Virginia “Ginny” Wooters to be the executive chef of their new eastside restaurant, Commoner & Co. and a full-fledged partner in both restaurants.
Wooters is well known in Tucson’s culinary circles as, until recently, the go-to person for Brian Metzger and his Metzger Family Restaurants.
Over the last several years, she has helped open and developed menus for nearly all of Metzger’s projects, including Jax Kitchen, Jackson Tavern, Poppy Kitchen and The Abbey, which operated in the space on East Sunrise Drive, where Commoner & Co. plans to launch in June.
In the last couple of months, Wooters has taken up residence as the chef at the new Pie Bird Bakery & Cafe, downtown.
Prep & Pastry co-owner Nathan Ares has known Wooters for years. They first met when he was 16, working as a back server at North.
Wooters was a line cook.
“It is all coming full-circle,” Ares said. “We’ve needed a solid kitchen presence, someone who can lead our team the right way and keep our quality up. She is the piece of the puzzle that we have been missing since day one.”
Wooters says that she has been given carte blanche to develop the menu for Commoner & Co., which will be open for lunch and dinner service.
Her ideas will most likely stay within the realm of modern comfort food, which Wooters believes is one of her strong suits.
“I like to lean toward the classics and make them whimsical,” she said.
One dish that she’d like to try at Commoner & Co. is a duck and waffles plate, a take on traditional chicken and waffles.
“My family is from the South,” said Wooters, who spent her early years in Virginia. “My dad really liked diners. I love diner food and still take inspiration from diner food.”
Wooters’ initial focus will be on Commoner & Co. Once that is up and running, she will work on improving the kitchen and tweaking the menu at Prep.
“We are a bunch of front-of-the-house guys,” Ares said. “I want her training and directing people. She is going to bring consistency. We don’t know all of the tricks of the trade like she does.”
Wooters feels she is up for the challenge.
“You have to think fast and roll with the punches in this industry,” she said. “Over the years, I’ve learned when to stress and what I should let roll off my back. This should be fun.”