I had driven past the Twisted Fork many times not really paying attention to the strip mall as I whizzed by. After dining there, I found that I need to slow down and stop in more often. The strip mall is located at the top of Dead Horse Hill. The location and interior reminded me of something straight out of Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

The interior isn’t anything spectacular. Tables and booths make up the landscape. There’s an open kitchen where you can see Chef Jay Powell work his magic. His frenetic style and enthusiasm can be felt the instant you talk to him. He exudes confidence and knowledge about the products he works with. And, you can tell that he truly loves what he does. It shows in the dishes he serves.

First off, the Twisted Fork isn’t usually open on Tuesdays, but Chef Jay made a special exception for the Foodies. That wasn’t the only thing out of the ordinary. Not five minutes after entering the restaurant, Jay came out of the kitchen with a locally raised, freshly roasted pig. That’s when I knew this was no ordinary restaurant. The smell of the pork was intoxicating because it was still hot. And, the crispy skin was glistening under the lights of the dining room.

When it came to the meal, I decided that I had to start with one of Jay’s specialty soups of the day. I selected the Roasted Root Vegetable Bisque ($12). When bisque comes to mind, you usually think of a classic lobster bisque that resembles a chowder. However, his bisque had a whipped, aerated texture. It tasted sinful to be eating something that was so delicious, yet relatively healthy.

The soup probably would have filled me up, but I decided to be a glutton and order the Maple Leaf Seared Duck ($29). This dish was made from a Maple Farm duck. The meat was seared to perfection and served on a bed of Parmesan risotto, topped with a cranberry duck reduction, and a side of roasted Brussel sprouts. One word: amazing!

If you are a fan of duck, you need to try this dish. The skin was crispy. The duck was cooked medium and fork-tender. The reduction sauce with the cranberries was rich, but the cranberries’ tartness cut through nicely adding some freshness to the plate. The roasted Brussel sprouts were slightly bitter after being roasted. With a dish this rich, you need something to cut all that fat. The risotto was creamy, thick, and tangy from the parm. I could’ve eaten just the risotto for a meal.

Being that it was just the Foodies in this small space for dinner, the waitstaff was incredible. They explained all the dishes from their origins to the preparation details and even the names of the people and farms they used to source their produce and meats. Jay and his wife were kind and loving like your Aunt and Uncle, but slightly edgier (in the best way possible). They were always around asking about refills and bringing more house-made bread to the table.

Next time you are in the Cherry Valley area, you shouldn’t drive by the Twisted Fork like I used to do. Stop in and you will be amazed at what Chef Jay and his staff offer. Not only would their dinners rival anything that you can find in the heart of Worcester, but I would put him up against anyone in the Metro West and the Boston area. It was that good!

Knowing that the food that you are eating is as fresh as it possibly can be, locally sourced and cooked with love and care comes together to create quite an experience. To have a chef be so hospitable and talented on the outskirts of Worcester was a treat too. Chef Jay is a diamond in the rough, and his restaurant the Twisted Fork is one of the best restaurant experiences I have had in a long time.