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Photo by Rob Bartlett

Chef Leroy Bautista builds on his jam biz with Nic & Luc Scratch Kitchen 

Spreading out

For 20 years, chef Leroy Bautista cheffed about in capacities both corporate and executive in New Orleans before moving the fam to the steamier climes of Miami. There, he helmed the kitchens at both Angelique Euro Café and Il Corso Trattoria in Coral Gables before taking over culinary operations at Shape Lovers, a Miami-based meal delivery service company. But only after making a conscious decision to start his own jam and preserve business did Bautista draw the attention of such notables as Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who served Bautista's spreads at his Miami restaurants, and Martha Stewart, who honored the chef with an "American Made" nom in 2015. Now Bautista's in Central Florida, still hawking his small-batch jams in flavors ranging from apricot-lavender (my fave) and scorpion pepper (your PB&J will never be the same) but also putting a bit of that cheffing experience to good use at Nic & Luc Scratch Kitchen.

You may have passed it on your way to Tima's House – the Euro-Balkan restaurant and grocer that's also housed inside the Shoppes at Village Square in Longwood. Nic & Luc sits next door, in fact, the breakfast fare, plant-based bowls and artisanal sandwiches being a sort of antidote to the platters of cevapi and börek Tima serves. The space has a Scandi aesthetic, which just makes the gorgeous hummus toast ($7) flecked with everything spice and pumpkin seeds look all the more Scandi and, when the morning sun glints off the slick of olive oil, all the more gorgeous. The toast is a wheatberry bread from Olde Hearth and the side of salad uses greens from the Barefoot Farmer, a vendor Bautista became familiar with when he sold his jams at the Audubon Park Community Market.

The morning glory doesn't stop there: a remarkably simple "chicken pig'wiche" ($6) comprising two slabs of applewood smoked bacon and a fried egg atop cheddar, baby spinach and tomato served in a buttered bun is as fuss-free and feel-good as it gets; or an exceptionally fresh "Buddha Bowl" ($9) of farm greens and quinoa holding sway over rounds of roasted beets, cubes of raw sweet potato and poppy grape tomatoes. Hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds lend a bit of crunch while a peppery splash of gochujang vinaigrette is hereby my salad dressing of choice. There's the option to add chicken ($4), roasted pork ($5) or shrimp ($6) to your bowl and the option to convert it into a wrap for $1 more. There are eggs and omelets to be had and while the coffee comes courtesy of Nespresso pods, that could change in the near future as Bautista entertains the thought of partnering with a local coffee purveyor or roaster.

Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., after which Nic & Luc (they're the names of Bautista's two boys, BTW) turns into a commissary kitchen and, let me just say, you'd do well to get your hands on a patty melt ($9) before the handover. A third of a pound of grass-fed beef in between thick slabs of grilled sourdough with melted cheddar and caramelized onions is the stuff diner dreams are made of. I cared none that a sassy, gum-chewing, Flo-like character didn't serve it to me, nor did it matter that I enjoyed it while seated on a white midcentury molded chair and not a red bar stool. That said, you won't find any cherry pies to end with here, but both homemade chocolate chip ($2.50) and lemon sugar cookies ($2.50) coat your palate with the sort of butter-filled madness that'll have you finishing them in their entirety even when your gut cries no and your haunches plead for mercy. Now that's my kinda jam.

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