Chef Jack Moore is Leaving Watershed Kitchen & Bar

Erin Edwards
Columbus Monthly
Chef Jack Moore holds the Hay-Smoked Baby Backs at Watershed Kitchen & Bar, photographed in 2017.

Prior to Watershed Kitchen & Bar’s reopening in June after more than a yearlong hiatus, Columbus Monthly spoke to executive chef Jack Moore about the pandemic year he spent away from the restaurant. He was very forthcoming about spending time on his parents’ farm; the new hot sauce brand he launched, Black Cap; mental health and the self-reflection he had done.  

That introspection and entrepreneurship are now leading to a big change.  

"I am, after the first of the year, stepping away from Watershed so I can focus full-time on hot sauce and my life—focus on my wife, my house and the things that I haven’t for the past five years,” Moore said Tuesday during an interview at Watershed. “It’s all good. I’m not leaving here because I’m unhappy. ... I had the opportunity to launch this hot sauce. I had the opportunity to realize what was important to me all these years, and I have the opportunity right now to work on that and focus on that.” 

Moore says he has always harbored a dream of someday working for himself and that the time seems right to focus on growing the company he launched during the pandemic, Ruffle Feather Ferments, and its flagship brand, Black Cap. The hot sauce is just the first of what Moore hopes will be a line of condiments aimed at celebrating and preserving Old World techniques like fermenting and pickling.  

“I’m only leaving the restaurant world, hopefully, temporarily. It’s not my goal to get out of the restaurant world. I love it in restaurants. It's my people, it’s what I like to do, but unfortunately the restaurant game that we’re playing right now is a lot different than the one we played 10 years ago,” he says. “So, for me, it’s now or never on the whole entrepreneurial side of things.”  

Before moving to Columbus in 2016 to open Ohio’s first distillery restaurant, Moore was chef de cuisine at The Black Pig in Cleveland. Prior to that, he worked under James Beard Award-winning chef Jonathon Sawyer at his now-closed Greenhouse Tavern. During Watershed’s first year, Moore led the restaurant to a No. 5 ranking on Columbus Monthly’s 10 Best Restaurants list. 

The decision to leave Watershed is an amicable one, Moore says, and he will continue using its commercial kitchen as a production space for his small-batch hot sauce. Moore will continue overseeing the Watershed kitchen through the holiday season at least, and candidates to replace him are already being considered.