Certification: CEC, ACE
Present Employment: Le Cordon Bleu Orlando
Previous Employment: Walt Disney World Resorts, Universal Orlando, Pietro’s of Fairfield (CA), Restaurant Villa Angelica (Helsinki, Finland)
Special Awards: 1 ACF Gold Medal, 2 ACF Silver Medals, 2 ACF Bronze Medals
Schooling/Training: California Culinary Academy, San Francisco CA
Mentor Chefs: Anette Grecchi-Gray, Joe Alfano, Michelle Noble, Klaus Friedenreich, Reimund Pitz
How did these Chefs impact your career? These Chefs all helped form me into who I am today. All displayed a phenomenal work ethic and level of professionalism that made me proud of my profession, proud to be associated with them, and which I try to embody. Some helped me to begin to think outside of the box when creating new menu items and providing excellent guest service, others challenged me to refine my understanding of craft and technique, and all have helped me become a better teacher and mentor for new culinarians.
What are your favorite dishes to prepare? Shrimp and Grits, Pork Vindaloo, French Onion Soup, Duck Confit
What are your favorite foods to eat? Shrimp and Grits, Pizza, Jerk Chicken with Black Beans and Coconut Rice, Pork Carnitas
What is your favorite cookbook? The Flavor Bible
Ingredients you could not live without? Cheese, salt, butter, garlic, tomatoes, grits
What gives you pleasure on the job every day? Being in the kitchen calms me. No matter what is going on outside of the four walls of the kitchen I know that in the kitchen everything will be okay since I have a plan and am prepared.
What was your worst disaster in the kitchen? My worst day in the kitchen that I have ever had was one of my first professional cook jobs at a Steakhouse, when I was working the grill. The entire day had been horrible up to that point; car broke down on the way to work, I had no money, I was recovering from a bad cold, and a number of other things that at the time seemed important that weren’t going my way. Anyways, to say I was unprepared mentally for the night was an understatement. I had the most steaks I have ever had in my entire life before or since, combined, come back that night. I was so embarrassed I begged the Chef to kick me off the grill after the first wave that came back. I was told to not move from the grill and keep cooking.
How did you turn it around? There was no turning that wreck around. After the meal service was over I apologized profusely, fully expecting to be fired. The Chef calmly asked, “So what did you learn”? I paused a minute, thinking about what to say next. The Chef said, “Mistakes are meant to be learned from, and just firing you won’t teach you anything. The next time you come in unprepared, for anything, will be the last day you are employed”. From that day forward I have made it a point to never be unprepared, ever.
What advice do you have for new Culinarians? Find a place to work in which all of the employees like to work at the establishment, and all of the team members encourage each other to improve. One of the worst feelings in this business is to work for an establishment in which the employees are miserable and only there for a paycheck.