Made From The Heart

Chef Jeremy Puts His Passion to Work in the Kitchen.

Written By Cynthia McFarland

Growing up in New England, Jeremy Zajac connected food with happy family times. 

“I’m Italian and Polish; my family always cooked. I loved tasting all the layers in the food and was fascinated with cooking,” he says, remembering the heady aromas and feeling of kinship in the kitchen as they made meatballs, perogies and pastas for the holidays. 

Photo by Ralph Demilio

Jeremy took culinary arts classes throughout high school.

“I was the one guy doing cooking, not car, classes. Then I started making cookies and cakes, and I was the cool kid,” he laughs.

Like many teens, his first job was at McDonald’s, but that didn’t count as “cooking.” He soon landed a job in the kitchen of the New England Conference Center. Working there and in other restaurants was how Jeremy found his way as a chef. Although he took some vocational classes, hands-on learning was the best teacher.

In 2006, Jeremy moved from New Hampshire to Ocala.

“I worked at Eagle Ridge Golf Club and then started working for Chef Felix on the Boulevard. I had a goal to be a sous chef and learned a lot of foundation working with him for about four years,” he says. 

Jeremy went on to work as sous chef at Cuvee Wine & Bistro and then at Brooklyn’s Backyard as executive chef. 

In 2019, he began working at County Line Smokehouse for the partnership group that then opened The Anchor, The Pizza Joint and Elevation 89 at the Ocala Airport. 

He’s been executive chef at Elevation 89 since it opened in October 2021. Jeremy was given free rein to create the menu and is in his wheelhouse there.

He especially enjoys cooking with different proteins, which is apparent when perusing the menu. From bison burgers to dry-aged steak to a recent seafood special of chargrilled Mediterranean octopus, Jeremy’s adventurous spirit in the kitchen is on display.

When coming up with new dishes, he routinely makes them ahead of time so his team can taste what they’re serving.

“This is my passion. I could cook all day long, but I couldn’t do this without my partners Chris Wilson and Daren Robinson, my staff and my family,” he says.

“I work 50 to 60 hours a week, but even on my day off I cook,” smiles Jeremy, who cooks on Sundays with his sons, Chris Zajac, 22, and Christian Vail, 12.  

His favorite dish at home is homemade marinara sauce.

“I love sharing it with friends standing by the pot of sauce dipping our bread in the pot and drinking wine,” he says. “I like to make people happy with food.” 

Learn more about Elevation 89 and check out Chef Jeremy’s menu at