Can you tell us a little about your journey as a chef?
I started working the buffet and as a dishwasher at Eat ‘n Park when I was 16, and then progressively worked my way through the ranks learning everything that I possibly could. I wasn’t a good student in high school so my mom got me a job there thinking it would help me “straighten out” and do better in school. That plan clearly backfired, because I was hooked from day one. Cooking has been my therapy, my escape, my mentor, and my life since then.
Who were some of your mentors?
I consider many people mentors, from owners to fellow chefs to dishwashers. Every person I have worked with or for is someone that I have learned something from, whether it be something as basic as a cleaning habit, how to add something different to a dish to bring flavors together, or just talking business strategies. Everyone has some sort of knowledge to pass on to the next person, and I welcome (and encourage) that sharing with my entire staff.
Craigslist, actually! I replied to an ad from Craigslist, and talked extensively with the owner about what he wanted, and what I was looking for, and we decided it was a good fit for both of us. I came aboard and haven’t looked back!
Can you tell us about what your plans are?
Eventually, I’d like to open my own place, but probably not in Pittsburgh, I want to fly south to the eastern Tennessee and Asheville area. In the meantime, I will perfect my craft and make fresh, local, great tasting food. I want to put a new, modern twist on the classics here at the Hotel, and bring a rustic gastropub feel to our future with food that is fun and creative but still has an upscale appeal to it. We have a broad demographic here in town, so I will create food that “wows” everyone equally.
What are you likely to be found doing on your day off? When I’m not working you will find me outside in the woods hiking or floating the river in my kayak- but I’m always looking for food. I am a forager and herbalist so between the woods, gardens, and my kitchen I don’t have much more time! I make vinegars, mead, wine, beer- anything fermented, really- from local ingredients that I foraged. I constantly have jugs and mason jars sitting around that my better half lovingly calls my “witch doctor concoctions.” I also teach classes once a month at Sterling Yoga on various topics, this month’s class was on shrubs and switchels, the health benefits of them, and how to make and use them.