From Dreams of Flying to Dreams of Frying: How This Chef Gave up His Pilot Dreams for a Culinary Reality.


imageWhat do you do?
I’m the Executive Chef at Crestview Center in Langhorne, PA. It is a nursing home.

How long have you been a chef? Have you always wanted to be in the culinary arts?
I’ve been cooking professionally for 5 years. I did wanna cook, but I actually wanted to be a pilot.

What stopped you from being a pilot? And how did you decide that cooking was going to be your profession?
Well, I have fun memories of cooking with my mom or just watching her and I know she enjoyed it. I lost my mom when I was 10 and I felt that I had to fend on my own, which was 100% true. No one but myself cooked the meals. Afterwards, when I grew older, it felt like a chore and I felt cross having to cook all the time. I got introduced to aviation from my brother and I loved the science behind flight and the power plants of planes (engines).
As time was progressing, I felt throwing bags into airplanes (I worked at Southwest Airlines as a baggage handler for three years, I think) was a dead-end. I began to get introduced to finer dining (thanks to my wife). Her and I ate at some nice places and it was my meal at Amanda’s, in the city, where I felt that this was my calling.

What steps did take to become a chef?
Well, in ’09 I started going to JNA Culinary Institute in South Philly. I attended class in the A.M. while working 3rd shift at SWA. I took a 9 month program. Although the school was not a high-end institution, I made the best of it. I put in my 2 week notice before finding a cooking job. All my coworkers said NOT to leave cause SWA was a good job. I ended up at the airport Marriott where I was on the cold side of the line, meaning desserts and salads and various cold appetizers.

Is that considered a starting point for a Chef?
Yes, prep cooking your items for your line so it can run smoothly. It also taught me speed and timing along with basic principles.

So how long were you there before moving on?
9 months working at the Marriott, I would go back and forth from cold side to hot appetizers. From there, after I got married, I transferred to the Ritz Carlton. Marriott owns them so it was an easy transition. At the Ritz, I learned about fine dining, cooking and precise knife skills and appreciation of high-end ingredients and plating.

It sounds like there’s a lot of things you pick up along the way. Do you feel like you’ve learned everything you need to know to guide someone new to the field?
It’s never-ending learning, but I feel like I can help someone in an institutional setting like a hospital or nursing home.

What is your favorite thing about what you do?
Honestly, I love cooking and making things from scratch. So I get satisfied when something turns out as planned.

Where would you love to cook?
Vetri….Noma …French Laundry…. Jean George….Botega…Flour and Water.

What advice would you give to someone studying the culinary arts?
Don’t be too arrogant or cocky or a know it all. Chefs tend to like people who take notes, write shit down and complete tasks. Be open to techniques.

Lastly, in the beginning you spoke about learning how to cook from your mother before sadly losing her at such a young age. Are there any special family recipes that were passed down?
No not really. I loved her pancakes and boxed Mac and cheese.

Do you have a favorite recipe that you can share with our readers?
Homemade pasta:
Ingredients:
2 cups of “00” flour (Zero zero flour comes from Italy is has a lower protein than a.p. flour I think)
2 eggs
6 yolk
1 tbs of olive oil
Directions:
Put flour on a cutting board, make a well
Add your eggs. (It helps if they are a bit beaten)
Add oil and some salt and stir in flour from the sides, so a sticky dough forms. Keep it going until all flour is incorporated and homogeneous.
Let rest in fridge for hour.
Cut in to 4’s and roll out.

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