Following his Friday-night shift at the better of the two restaurants in Stouchsburg, Pennsylvania, Jon Gosselin emerges from its kitchen and asks if I want to try something he made. A minute later he comes back with two plates of beef and Hawaiian fried rice and sets them down at the bar. (You may remember a variation of this meal from Jon & Kate Plus 8, Season Four, Episode Four: “Korean Dinner.” Recap: Despite Kate’s insistence on mixing the green and white onions he’d requested she keep segregated, Jon’s dinner is a success.) “Beef sauté with mushrooms and onions,” he elaborates. “Prime rib. We cut it all up, sautéed it.”
He’s wearing dark-washed jeans, a cuff-linked shirt and a blue blazer—an outfit that speaks to his recent promotion from server to maître d’ here at the Black Dog Cafe. The familiar face is ruddier and rounder than it used to be, coarsened by four years of unrestricted drinking and cigarette smoking. His chinstrap/goatee combo is neatly groomed, and the sparse hair on his head—he’s 36 now—is still spiked upward, as if saluting the infamous summer of 2009, when he split up with Kate, moved to New York, and embarked upon a series of tabloid-recorded liaisons.
Wait. Jon didn’t actually make our food. “Actually, I say ‘we.’ Greg cooked it,” he says. Greg is the sous-chef. Jon looks at me a little bashfully. “I told him what to add.”
Jon started working at the Black Dog in August. Located in a 600-person hamlet 18 miles west of Reading, it’s a folksy wiener-schnitzel joint with delusions of Asian fusion grandeur—the perfect place for Jon to rehabilitate his image and reclaim his mantle as the nation’s preferred Gosselin.