Describe your background/history-where are you from?
I was born and raised in Hollywood, California. I had a lot of fun walking to school every day down Hollywood Boulevard and was exposed early on to some of the darkest sides of urban street life than any 10 year old should be exposed to. I dug it. It hardened me a little and helped me appreciate all the aspects of how difficult life life can be trying to survive in an unforgiving city. My mom was an LAPD cop and worked out of Hollywood division during this time and I hung out a lot at the station and got to meet many celebrities and Hollywood types in my childhood.
I should write a book about all the things I saw and witnessed then. Crazy!
What inspired you to become a chef? Where did your interest in food begin?
I never liked tomatoes before I went to Virginia, but after growing some tomato plants and watching them grow to giant, red orbs, shiny in the sun, I was impressed. I grabbed one on a hot southern summer’s day and bit into an explosion of juicy, sun-drenched tomato goodness that startled me. I never tasted a tomato like this before. I had only seen the supermarket variety, you know the type; pale, under-ripe and a bland, semi-green excuse for a real tomato. After my exposure to the real thing I would sit in the garden with a shaker of salt and eat what seemed like a bushel of tomatoes in total summery goodness, tomato juice dripping off my smiling face.
My whole experience during these summers were filled the freshest and most abundant foods one can imagine and it changed and altered my awareness and appreciation of what we eat and where our food comes from.
So, I would have to say that my time with my great aunts inspired me to delve into the world of food and cooking with freshness and love.
What do you consider the best aspect about cooking/being a chef?
I can’t imagine anything more personal than cooking and preparing food for people. Eating is a very personal and private experience and to have the opportunity to cook for all kinds of people has been a complete blast.
When I owned a restaurant and got a chance to peer out of my kitchen on a rockin’ Friday to see a full house of people eating my food, laughing, digging the whole experience is what any chef dreams of.
Being a chef has taken me around the world. Everyone needs to eat well and I am gifted with the ability to feed people well and to me there is nothing more satisfying.
Describe your specialty dish or style of cooking?
My cooking style is very fresh and authentic. If there is a pile of great ingredients in front of me, I just let the food come together like it knows how to do. I am just the helper after all. The food comes together in a natural and progressive way that doesn’t overpower the goodness that resides in the food. I really like the Mediterranean style of cooking where freshness counts and simplicity is the name of the game. So, I am a simple chef with deep respect for the ingredients who has the talent to make everything come together in the freshest and most practical way. I give the credit to the ingredients and let their power guide me. I’m inspired and guided by the food - I’m just the guy who’s helping the food come together.
Describe your work style. How would your colleagues describe working with you?
I work well with everyone. I love teaching what I know and I can be a firm leader when it comes to cooking in the best way possible. I am loud and powerful at times when it is needed, because running kitchens with 20 other cooks that I need to lead I have to be loud, brash and confident.
I am a blast to watch cooking and I know that other employees enjoy watching me cooking and getting into it and I’ve often been told that some of them wish they could take a peek inside my brain. ;)
Describe your greatest accomplishment. (Culinary or otherwise)
Culinarily, I would have to say designing, building and running my own restaurant was the greatest thing I have ever done as a chef.
Turning a 40,000 dollar investment into a restaurant grossing 2 million dollars was quite a feat and something I am enormously proud of.
And working on a James Bond film - I was told by one of the producers, Terry Bamber, and the director, Roger Spottiswood, that my food was the best movie catering food they’d ever had!
What is something that we wouldn’t know about you by looking at you?
I have been working as a professional chef in kitchens since I was 17 but my first real cooking job was cooking blue crabs in Virginia when I was 12. My aunt’s brother ran a crab shack/seafood restaurant near our farm on the Chesapeake Bay and he hired me to help him out during the summer. I had 20 of my own crab pots and dutifully brought my catch to his place every morning and got busy straight off cooking up batches for hungry fishermen for lunch. At the time I learned a great deal about quality seafood and the importance of freshness. I did this for 4 summers. Along with steaming crabs I also helped do prep work and was wielding giant chef knives like a pro in no time.
Soon after, when I turned 14, I got a job in my hometown at a local breakfast restaurant cooking breakfast for crowds of people on the weekends and helping with dinner service after school during the week.
After that my life has been a whirlwind of working in kitchens and cooking ever since. When I turned 18 I got my first chance of running a real kitchen as a chef, letting my inherent cooking talents take over, and soon I was running kitchens all over Southern California. All this experience led me to many famous kitchens and I have been blessed with working for some of the most influential and innovative chefs around.
By the time I was 22, I was managing kitchens with staff counts of up to 20 cooks and staff. I guess this was what I was destined to do in my life and I accepted and embraced it as my path.
I am also a talented musician, drummer and artist. I love animals and have three (edit - sadly now only two - RIP Meeper) sitting around my house right now. I speak three Spanish fluently and can also speak French and Italian. I ride English motorcycles and can tear a Triumph T120 engine apart in 2 hours. My current love besides my girlfriend is my Triumph Bonneville.