I am a formally trained chef with more than 25 years of professional experience. I am a longtime Severna Park resident and enjoy being active in my community. I love my family, and my biggest joy in life is being a father to a delightful little girl. I like to spend time with my wife and daughter, play my drums, read, listen to podcasts and write when I’m not cooking.
Food memories are a big thing for me. They can take you right back to a specific time and place, and even cause you to recall certain emotions and sensations. That’s pretty amazing. When I was little, I loved to watch my mother cook and bake. She was old-school and made everything from scratch. Guided by southern principles, she was an excellent cook, as was her mother. To this day, the smell of cinnamon makes me long for her freshly baked snickerdoodle cookies (my favorite) the same way that cumin and chili powder takes me right back to our family’s “Taco Tuesdays.” Mom and Dad always made sure we ate dinner together around the table at night. There, we’d talk about our days or hash out problems—just spend some time with each other after a busy day.
So, while I may not have always known that cooking would become a career for me (though that trajectory started fairly early), good food made with care and love—and its ties with family, with people enjoying it while connecting with one another—has always had a big place in my heart.
Coming Back Around
How stepping away from the kitchen brought me closer to it
After over two decades of working in the restaurant industry, I began to burn out from the long, odd hours and physical demands. I had gotten married and purchased my first house, but I was never home.
When my daughter was born, I decided to leave the restaurant industry and take a job that allowed me more time with my family. Naturally, at home, the cooking was my department, and slowly, over time, I fell in love with it all over again. I cooked for friends’ birthdays, picked up a few catering gigs, and challenged myself in the kitchen almost daily. With the proliferation of home-food service companies and meal prep, I started to think there might still be a place for me in the cooking industry.
Having people say they enjoy your cooking always feels good, but what feels even better is knowing you provided a good meal for someone who isn’t isn’t able to make it or can’t due to a busy schedule. Good food often takes time and effort, but no one says it has to be your own!
A few career highlights and lessons learned
Garry’s Grill: My first experience working in a restaurant was at Garry’s Grill, which is still going strong in Severna Park. I was 15, and I was hired as a dishwasher, but I quickly moved up in the ranks to line cook and eventually ran the line and worked the busiest shifts. There, I was taught the basic inner workings of a restaurant and how to “work a line.”
Annapolis Yacht Club: I worked at the “AYC” in my early 20s, after working at some of the busier but less formal local restaurants. There, I learned more of the intricacies of cooking. They used more classical French terminology, cooked dishes and sauces rooted in tradition, and put a greater emphasis on technique. Maybe more impactful though, was the impression some of the higher-up chefs made on me—all of whom had attended culinary school and were dedicated to the craft. In short, I learned what I didn’t know … and that culinary school would be my next step.
Johnson & Wales University: Culinary school filled in my knowledge gaps and made me a more well-rounded cook. I had a good bit more practical experience than others but I was not yet a student of the craft of cooking. I didn’t know all the big name chefs, the storied restaurants in Europe, or the current trends and hottest places here in the states. After “JWU,” I was not only a better cook, but I was more aware of depth and breadth of the industry as well. From baking and pastry to full dining room service as well as nutrition and all the various types of cuisines, I was exposed to it all and couldn’t wait to put it into practical use.
The Cheescake Factory: I worked at the Cheesecake Factory in Providence, RI, while attending JWU. It isn’t the kind of place that allows one to use what they learned in class that day, but it did offer a lot. Number one was standardization. It might seem like a no-brainer, but creating replicable recipes is key and something the “CCF” really excels at. Second was learning how to deal with volume and pressure. Cheesecake Factories have a huge menu and draw an unimaginable amount of business, so you’re really busy … and you have to nail everything. Lastly, I helped open several new stores in the midwest. Starting a restaurant and training a staff from scratch was demanding, yet very rewarding.
Pazo: I had already worked my way up to Sous Chef by the time I was brought on at Pazo, but this experience took things to the next level. A Cindy Wolfe-owned restaurant (and at the time one of the best places in Baltimore), Pazo focused primarily on Spanish food but with hints of Italian and other Mediterranean flavors. It attracted huge crowds, yet at the same time, I had to focus on the smallest details. I learned and relearned so many things under my chef—I discovered that things I thought I was good at could be improved upon, the ways an ingredient was used could be rethought, and that cooking good food is more about restraint than indulgence.