David Bulman can recall the exact day he wanted to be a chef.
He was 5 years old, working in the garden with his grandfather, a rugged outdoorsman who enjoyed living off of the land.
“His parents were straight from France and Sweden and they brought with them a lot of culinary heritage. Food was prevalent in that part of the family,” Bulman says. “I remember telling him that I wanted to have a farm with a restaurant.”
That dream is now a reality.
Last month, he opened Seasons in Etna. The chef’s tasting menus, which use only regionally sourced ingredients and change in accordance with nature, are divided into four-, six- and eight-course meals, each with a vegetarian option.
“If it’s not from this area, it doesn’t come in the door,” says Bulman, who plans to cultivate a nearby plot of land this spring. “If the farmers are out of tomatoes, tomato salad is off of the menu.”
Open Thursday through Saturday, the 12-seat, upscale eatery is a dinner-only dining experience. Entire party participation is required for the tasting course selected.
Seasons already has a Gold rating from Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurants, a program that supports food-based businesses that practice energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reduction, responsible sourcing, good nutrition and compassionate employee treatment.
“We’re only open three days a week in order to have a good work-life balance. That’s a sustainable initiative,” Bulman explains. “How many places can say they care about that in this industry? If you want to be a truly impactful establishment or organization, it starts with sustaining your business.”
Bulman, 30, grew up in Western New York and came to Pittsburgh a decade ago to attend Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts Downtown. Years ago, representatives from the cooking academy visited his high school French class and regularly inundated his mailbox with brochures.
“I was a horrible cook when I started,” he admits. “My academic hunger didn’t do much for me, but as time went on and I got more experience, it started to accelerate my growth. I gained wisdom in the kitchen.”
Bulman has worked around the country, including at Pittsburgh’s Bona Terra, Alinea in Chicago, Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York and The French Laundry in Napa Valley.
When he returned from the West Coast, he stayed with his girlfriend in Etna and began catering private events, using the money from each high-profile gig to add to his arsenal of chef’s tools, from knives and pans to a mixer and a prep table. This guerilla-style cooking proved profitable, allowing him to lease the Butler Street site in Etna last January, which started out as Quickhatch Coffee & Food.
Bulman partnered with investor Masahiro “Mas” Ogiso and renovated the space, raising the ceiling, equipping the kitchen and purchasing all new plates, tables and chairs. The pair quickly forged relationships with local farmers and food purveyors, including East End Food Co-op, Goat Rodeo Farm & Dairy, J.L. Kennedy Meat Stand, Mill Creek Trout Farm and JQ Dickinson Salt-Works, among others.
“We want you to feel comfortable when you come in,” Bulman says. “It’s really nice food with really nice service.”