Looking Back: Cowford Chophouse Topping Off Ceremony

Driving past the Cowford Chophouse, you might think we decorated for Christmas with a small evergreen tree on our roof. However, the lofty pine is not our homage to the holidays; instead, it is part of an ancient construction tradition that we practiced last month during our Topping Off Ceremony.

For centuries, construction teams from Europe and North America have placed a pine tree at the highest point of a building, once its highest beam was installed. The tradition originated from multiple cultures over the course of history.

Some attribute the tradition to the Native Americans, who believed that no building should be constructed higher than the tree line. Other people have attributed the tradition to pre-Dark Ages Scandinavia, where trees were placed on buildings to appease the spirits disturbed during construction projects. Many modern construction companies maintain this practice to honor the workers who have finished the most difficult and dangerous part of any construction project.

Whatever the root of the tradition, we wanted to celebrate with our hard-working team and supporters. On November 18, news teams, our construction crew, several representatives from our team of subcontractors, and avid fans of the Cowford Chophouse project joined us for a formal celebration as we signed a steel beam to be placed at the top of the building and unveiled a ceremonial evergreen tree on the roof.

Owner of the Chophouse, Jacques Klempf, said he likes to think our evergreen is breathing life into a building that sat dead for too many years. Similarly, as our construction team completes more phases of this project, we can see our iconic building breathing life into the Jacksonville’s Downtown neighborhood.

To see more photos and footage from the Topping Off Ceremony, check out WJCT News, WOKV, the Jacksonville Business Journal, the Financial News & Daily Record, WJXT The Local Station, First Coast News, and Action News.

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this momentous occasion!

Cowford Chophouse

The traditional evergreen tree and American flag

Cowford Chophouse

Jacques Klempf, owner of the Cowford Chophouse, welcomes the crowd.

Cowford Chophouse

Members of the Cowford Chophouse team gathered with community supporters to celebrate the Topping Off Ceremony.

Cowford Chophouse

Jacques Klempf, owner of the Cowford Chophouse, signs the ceremonial steel beam.

Cowford Chophouse

Gary Haliko, Senior Superintendent for Danis, signs the ceremonial steel beam.

Cowford Chophouse

Representatives from several Northeast Florida media outlets gathered to document the occasion.

Cowford Chophouse

Tony Suttles, Vice President of Danis, shares how various cultures interpret the Topping Off Ceremony as Aundra Wallace, CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority, and Dr. Charles Moreland, Director of Community Affairs for the City of Jacksonville, look on.

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Cowford Chophouse Construction Update: November 2016

Installation of the highest beam was recognized with traditional topping off ceremony

November 18, 2016 – Jacksonville, Fla. – Today, Cowford Chophouse owner Jacques Klempf, Danis Construction and the Downtown Investment Authority held a topping off ceremony at the Cowford Chophouse, which is slated to open next year at 101 East Bay Street in Jacksonville’s Downtown neighborhood. The ceremony celebrated the installation of the highest piece of steel, a major milestone in the building’s construction.

“We appreciate the community’s support for this project. Reaching this milestone has bolstered our enthusiasm to complete this project. We are grateful to Danis Construction, the Downtown Investment Authority, Design Cooperative and all of the contractors who have helped us so far,” said Klempf.

Construction at the Cowford Chophouse continued on schedule through October and early November, with the exception of a two-day pause for Hurricane Matthew on October 6 and 7. The following tasks have been completed since the last construction update was sent on September 28:

  • Structural steel installation is approximately 80 percent complete.
  • All floor levels are set.
  • Approximately 80 percent of roof steel is set. This progress includes the highest steel beam (installed at a height of 51 feet and eight inches), which was recognized during the topping off ceremony.
  • The second-floor kitchen is completely framed and all mechanical, engineering and plumbing (MEP) is roughed in.
  • Framing for exterior masonry walls has been poured and construction has begun.
  • Window arch concrete beams on the first and second levels passed inspection by the City of Jacksonville’s Building Inspection Division and a structural engineer.
  • The southwest corner at 101 E. Bay Street is being brought up to steel elevation, and the remaining pieces of steel are being attached.
  • Brickwork in the alley behind 101 E. Bay Street is complete.

In the coming weeks, bricks from the historic exterior walls will continue to be cleaned, detailed, and re-installed at the southwest corner. Additionally, second-floor kitchen slabs will be finalized; construction will continue on the third floor with masonry and cast-in-place concrete; poured concrete window arch fabrication and roofing for the kitchens will be completed; and final structural steel will be installed.

Upon completion, the chophouse and raw bar will feature a two-story dining room, as well as a rooftop terrace bar and lounge. Danis Construction is providing the construction services for the project, and Design Cooperative is providing all architectural services.

For behind-the-scenes progress photos, follow the Cowford Chophouse on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


About Forking Amazing Restaurants

Forking Amazing Restaurants is an independent restaurant group based in Jacksonville, Florida, which comprises Ovinte, Bistro Aix, Il Desco and the Cowford Chophouse (currently under construction). To learn more about the FAR group, visit

Press Contacts

Natalie DeYoung

Lena Oakley

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Get ready to MOO-VE IT!

Calling all runners! Registration is now open for the inaugural MOO-VE IT 5K and one-mile fun run, scheduled for March 4, 2017. Sign up at

This exciting event will take runners on a tour of recent development in Downtown Jacksonville. The course will begin and end at the Cowford Chophouse, taking participants down Bay Street to EverBank Field and back. After the race, we invite all runners to join us for a block party with live music, delicious food from the Cowford Chophouse’s sister restaurants (Ovinté, Bistro Aix, and Il Desco), and beer to toast their participation in the race.

Proceeds from the race will benefit the North Florida School of Special Education, an incredible school that improves the lives of students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities through the achievement of academic, vocational, and social skills. Funds raised from the MOO-VE IT 5K will support the school’s physical education department and running team.

The North Florida School of Special Education’s running team and many staff members will participate in the MOO-VE IT 5K. Runners will have the opportunity to run the 5K with a NFSSE student; participants can note their interest in being matched with a student runner on the online registration form.

Ready to run? Here are all the details:

  • Date: March 4, 2017
  • Time: One-mile run starts at 9:30 a.m.; 5K starts at 10 a.m.
  • Registration fees: $15 for one-mile fun run (fixed price); $25 for 5K through February 25 (price increases to $30 February 26 — March 3, and $35 the day of the race)
  • Perks: All participants will receive a T-shirt, medal, race bag with specialty items, and admission to the post-race block party

Sponsorship opportunities are available! To learn more about partnering with the Cowford Chophouse to reach an active and engaged group of Jacksonville residents, including valuable opportunities to enhance your company’s visibility during the holiday season, email Nicole White at

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Cowford Chophouse Construction Update: September 2016

Jacksonville, Fla. – Next year, Jacksonville-based Forking Amazing Restaurants will open the Cowford Chophouse at 101 East Bay Street in Jacksonville’s Downtown neighborhood. The chophouse and raw bar will feature a two-story dining room, as well as a rooftop terrace bar and lounge. Danis Construction is providing construction services for the project. Design Cooperative is providing all architectural services.

Construction at the Cowford Chophouse continued with no interruptions since the last construction update was sent on August 19. The following tasks were completed since then:

  • The Cowford Chophouse received its Certificate of Appropriateness for a street canopy on August 24.
  • The City of Jacksonville issued a $6.42 million building permit for 5,876 square feet of enclosed space and 2,968 square feet of unenclosed space. The permit was approved at a September 8 Planning Commission meeting.
  • Wood and metal stud framing between 107 and 109 E. Bay Street was completed.
  • Plumbing, rough-in and underground work at 107 E. Bay Street was finalized.
  • Chases were installed near the planned bar area to accommodate future electrical work.
  • Initial bids were collected for fire, mechanical and electrical subcontractors; contracts have been finalized and awarded.
  • Structural support column installation continued according to schedule, with installation expected to finish in November.

In the coming weeks, electrical, plumbing and mechanical rough-in will continue at 101 E. Bay Street; floor slabs will be poured for the first and second-floor kitchens; and wood framing for the second-floor kitchen will begin.

For behind-the-scenes progress photos, follow the Cowford Chophouse on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


About Forking Amazing Restaurants:

Forking Amazing Restaurants is an independent restaurant group based in Jacksonville, Florida, which comprises Ovinté, Bistro Aix, Il Desco and the Cowford Chophouse (currently under construction). To learn more about the FAR group, visit

Press Contact:

Natalie DeYoung

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Fire Up the Grill: Tailgating Tips from Executive Chef Ian Lynch

Cooler weather and tailgates go hand-in-hand. There’s no better way to kick-off a game than with a sizzling steak, or elevate an average game day spread with expertly grilled chicken, pork, or fish. This time next year, we plan on being your go-to destination for pre-game meals and post-game celebrations. Until then, our Executive Chef, Ian Lynch, has put together a few grilling tips to raise the bar for your next tailgate.

It needs to be hot, hot, hot

“Heat up your grill for at least 20-25 minutes to make sure the grates are nice and hot. This also kills any bacteria and ensures a nicer sear on your protein. I recommend you start cooking when the temperature is around 400-450 degrees.

I set up my charcoal and/or wood briquettes in a pyramid, and then I use a butane torch to start them. If possible, I recommend avoiding lighter fluids. It can leave an undesirable flavor on the protein and unhealthy chemicals that you don’t want to eat.”

Great meat starts with the grill

“Once the grill is hot, brush it off with a grill brush. A good trick is to use a balled up piece of heavy-duty foil to clean the grill.

Oil your grill up. At the Cowford Chophouse’s sister restaurants, we use a rolled-up kitchen towel that is tied tightly and soaked in oil to brush the grill every time we put on a protein. This way, nothing sticks and it keeps the meat from being too oily.

Flare-ups can affect the protein. I recommend keeping a squirt bottle filled with water handy in case any flames get out of hand. When the meat is kissed by the flames, it adds an undesirable taste.”

Take care of your meat:

“Pull your proteins out 20-30 minutes before grilling, and let the protein rest until it comes up to room temperature. This technique will help ‘relax’ the meat and improve its tenderness.

Marinate your meat! Tougher cuts of meat should marinate overnight to help break them down, which will enhance the flavor and make the protein tender.

After removing the meat from the grill, it’s important to let your protein rest for about five minutes before cutting.” 

Add some unexpected flavor:

“I prefer grilling over wood or charcoal. Try adding oak, pecan, or other types of wood chips to your flame. It adds a subtle smoke flavor to the proteins.”

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Meet the Team: Danis Construction

Behind every great building, there’s an even greater team of designers, engineers, architects and contractors collaborating toward a common goal. The Cowford Chophouse is no exception.


If you drive past the Cowford Chophouse site, you’ll notice the Danis logo emblazoned across fence signs, work vests, and hard hats. Look familiar? The Danis name has been synonymous with Downtown development for several years. From the newly renovated Jessie Ball duPont Center, to the law offices of Farah & Farah, and even the Daily’s Place at EverBank Field practice facility and covered amphitheater (which broke ground in August 2016), Danis has played a role in some of the most significant projects in recent Downtown history.

amphitheater exterior

“We’re honored to have the opportunity to make a positive difference in the growth of Downtown Jacksonville,” said Steve Betz, President of Danis. “The Cowford Chophouse building is a local landmark, and we’re honored to work alongside Jacques Klempf and the whole Forking Amazing Restaurants team to bring it back to life.”

The Cowford Chophouse isn’t the first time Danis and Forking Amazing Restaurants have worked together. In 2015, Forking Amazing Restaurants contracted Danis to complete the renovation of Il Desco, a modern Italian restaurant located in a historic building at the corner of Park and King Streets in Jacksonville’s Riverside neighborhood.

IL Desco-Long Bar
IL Desco-Exterior
IL Desco-Dining Room
IL Desco-Dining Room Detail
IL Desco-Dining Room Detail 2
IL Desco-Dining Room 3
IL Desco-Dining Room 2

“Danis jumped right in and understood our vision for Il Desco from our first meeting,” said Jacques Klempf, co-founder of Forking Amazing Restaurants. “We’re thrilled to work with the Danis team again for the Cowford Chophouse.”

Danis started in 1916 in Dayton, Ohio. The founder, B.G. Danis, Sr., believed in hiring hardworking, creative individuals to bring his clients’ visions to life. That philosophy has carried Danis through 100 years of growth, including expansions to Columbis, Cincinnati, Raleigh, and Jacksonville. We look forward to seeing the Cowford Chophouse become part of Danis’ portfolio of successful projects.

Welcome to the team, Danis!

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Cowford Chophouse Construction Update: August 2016

Active construction has resumed at the Cowford Chophouse, following a brief intermission after Danis Construction’s appointment as the project’s general contractor May 31.

Over the past several weeks, Danis worked closely with Jacques Klempf (owner of the Cowford Chophouse) to develop a strategy for finishing the project. Those discussions resulted in updates to the master design, including enhancements to plans for both of the restaurant’s kitchens. The restaurant is now on track for completion in 2017.

“This transition period has been necessary and productive,” said Klempf. “The Danis team needed time to assess the project’s status and present their recommendations for finishing the job. Together, we have made strategic changes to improve the restaurant from an operational standpoint. We look forward to unveiling the results of their work next year.”

The following tasks have been completed since May 31:

  • Finalization of master design documents for the restaurant and its second-floor kitchen in the Holmes Building.
  • Removal of the interior partition wall between 107 and 109 E. Bay Street.
  • Demolition of the concrete floor at 107 E. Bay Street, where the restaurant’s first-floor kitchen will be built.
  • Installation of wood beam supports between 107 and 109 E. Bay Street, and structural tube steel around the elevator shaft and stair tower.
  • Restoration work on the historic windows and cornice continued according to schedule.

In the coming weeks, contracts for fire, mechanical and electrical subcontractors will be finalized; concrete and masonry structures will be installed to support larger beam installation at the site; structural steel setting at the roofline will continue; and structural support columns will be added to existing walls.

For behind-the-scenes progress photos, follow the Cowford Chophouse on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Father’s Day Gift Ideas from Executive Chef Ian Lynch

Father’s Day is just around the corner, and we know Dad would love nothing more than a big, juicy steak to celebrate. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until next year to celebrate with us. (Rest assured, though, we’ll have the chops and whiskey ready for Father’s Day 2017!)

If you’re still scrambling to find a gift for the food-loving father in your life, look no further. Our very own Executive Chef, Ian Lynch, just so happens to be a father himself. He recently teamed up with Edible Northeast Florida, a publication that highlights the best of our region’s food and dining community, to share his tips for delicious Father’s Day gifts any dad would love:

For the kitchen king: A high-quality cast-iron skillet

At home I have a cast-iron skillet, which I use almost once a week. It is great for searing just about anything. I love cooking burgers on it because you get a nice crust on the outside of the burger. I use it to sear steaks, too — again, you get a great crust on the outside and it is nice and tender inside. It is just like going out to a restaurant without leaving your house. You can also sear fish, scallops, crab cakes…. The more you use the cast iron skillet, the more seasoned it gets and it adds more flavor to everything you cook with it.

For the grill master: Himalayan salt block

Another favorite gift that my wife, Ashley, bought me for Father’s Day is a Himalayan salt block. This is great because you can cook on it, but also use it at room temperature to season certain items. I use it to season foods that I eat raw, like beef and tuna. I bought one of these for my father; he loves placing it on a hot grill and searing steaks and scallops. It adds a nice mild salt flavor to whatever you cook on it.

For the herb enthusiast: Spice blends and fresh herbs

I will often make my own spice blends, but we have a couple of great places in the area to get pre-made spice blends, Fresh Jax and Green Man Gourmet. Around my house, I have many herbs and vegetables growing. I will pick different herbs and ask my children to smell them and explain what herb they have. So when we make dinner, I ask them to go get some basil or oregano and they are able to differentiate the herbs.

To see more of Chef Ian’s full list of gift ideas, visit Edible Northeast Florida’s website.

Happy Father’s Day from the Cowford Chophouse!

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Introducing our Executive Chef, Ian Lynch

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If you’ve ever dined at our sister restaurants Ovinté, Bistro Aix, or Il Desco, Ian Lynch may look familiar to you. He’s been a key member of the Forking Amazing Restaurants family ever since our first concept, Ovinté, opened in 2012.

ian lynchSince then, Ian has served as the Executive Chef of all our restaurants over the last four years. In addition to shaping the culinary programs of each concept, he has trained and supported our group’s many Executive and Sous Chefs.

When asked about why Ian is the right man for the job, Jacques Klempf — a founding partner in Forking Amazing Restaurants and owner of the Cowford Chophouse — had glowing remarks:

“Ian has been an integral part of our team since 2012, and has taken an active role in all of our concepts to date. Through the years, we have had the privilege of supporting his talent, professionalism and passion with new opportunities as our portfolio grew. He is the very best person to lead the culinary program at the Cowford Chophouse, and we look forward to toasting his success when it opens this fall,” he said.

Ian, who previously served as the Executive Chef for the entire restaurant group, will transition into his new role this summer.

“I am excited for this new opportunity to expand my creativity, and also humbled by Jacques’ confidence in me to lead the culinary team at the Cowford Chophouse,” he said. “It’s an honor to be part of such a great company and I can’t wait to help give Jacksonville the local steakhouse it deserves.”

Curious about how Ian plans to build the Cowford Chophouse’s menu over the coming months? Read his interview with Alexa Epitropoulos of the Jacksonville Business Journal.

Congratulations, Ian!

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