As a chef my goal is to bring my love for all things epicurean to where I work, to my friends, to my home, and of course to my blog. I perpetually strive to create contemporary dishes with clean flavors that showcase fresh, local and regional ingredients. To me, food is about life, and I find that pure food, even when minimalistically prepared can bring about the greatest of pleasures in an always complicated world.
I spent my adolescent years in Knoxville where I first developed a passion for food through helping my parents with household chores. My Dad traveled a lot for work and my Mom owned her own business and would get home at 6:30 p.m. or later and still have to cook dinner, so I learned to cook simply because I wanted to help her. My hobby soon turned to a creative outlet and ultimately a career.
While attending the University of Tennessee, in Knoxville I took several restaurant positions. In 2003 I began working at Little Star restaurant as the sous chef. During my time at Little Star the restaurant was rated the ‘Best New Restaurant’ in Knoxville in 2003 and received an ‘Award of Excellence’ from Wine Spectator in 2004.
Surprisingly though my professional career began with a position as a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch. It was a natural step after gaining a bachelor’s degree in finance. While at Merrill Lynch, I found myself throwing dinner parties for friends on a regular basis. I always wanted to go home and cook when I had a bad day, then one day I realized that I was much happier cleaning a kitchen at midnight than I was working behind a desk at four o’clock in the afternoon.
After resigning from Merrill Lynch, I took a risk, a risk that I would recommend to anyone thinking about it, and moved to London to pursue my passion for cooking. I was accepted into the prestigious, Le Cordon Bleu and earned the Grand Diplôme de Cuisine et de Pâtisserie Le Cordon Bleu. While in London, I gained invaluable knowledge about handling fresh fish working at Blagden’s Fish Monger. After returning to the states, I worked for a variety of restaurants before landing a job as a line cook at the Ocean Room at KiawahIsland under Executive Chef, Chris Brandt. Within seven months, I again earned the title of Sous Chef.
I left the Ocean Room in 2007 and purchased Red Sky Grill, a former Seabrook stalwart and transformed the interior and cuisine before reopening. Here, I learned life lessons that can never be taught in school, and can, some would say unfortunatley, only be learned the hard way. After three years of blood, sweat, and tears, loads of fun, I closed the restaurant and moved on. In those three years however I was awarded four stars from the Post and Courier, an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator, and “The Best Reason to Drive to Seabrook Island” by the Charleston City Paper. While the decision to close was exceptionally difficult at best, it was not a step back, in fact because of a good friend it turned out to be three steps forward.
Shortly after closing, my friend, who turned into my mentor, Mike Lata (James Beard Award winning chef and partner of F.I.G. and The Ordinary in Charleston, SC) offered me a full time butchering position at F.I.G. What I did not realize at that time was this was not going to simply be a butchering job, no, it was a thousand times greater. While working at F.I.G. I was able to learn more about fish, flesh, and fowl than I had ever imagined. My experience up to this point, while extensive in knife and saw work, lacked in face to face contact with farmers and fishermen. Every day at F.I.G. I was able to meet, interact, learn from, and get to know every individual we purchased from. I thought I knew how to distinctly tell the freshness of fish, and I did, but now I was learning the intricacies of freshness like I could never imagine. Where I once felt I enjoyed butchering, I now knew I loved it and have found a deeper respect for all individuals who are teaching and or learning this form of culinary art, an art which thankfully is coming back. F.I.G. was not just about butchering though, it was more. I found myself there, my true style of cooking, my passion, and much more. In December of 2010 I was honored to be a sous chef for Mike on his Iron Chef America appearance versus Iron Chef Jose Garces.
After nearly a year and half with such an amazing restaurant, chef, and staff I got the opportunity to move to Nashville, TN. Back to my roots, closer to home, and a chance to start in what I thought was a growing culinary scene. Nashville was more than I had expected. Once I arrived in Nashville I quickly realized what an opportunity I really had. Since here I have established some of the best working relationships with farmers that I could ever imagine. From vegetables to beef, from pork to raw milk, and way beyond I am now able to know every detail about the food we serve. I can see the cow be born, visit the fields where the grain he is going to eat is grown, and follow him to the processor, every step owned by the same people. From to presentation I can see it all, participate it the entire cycle, and know every detail imaginable. The passion these farmers have is second to none. I am truly blessed to work with people who have the same drive and desire to constantly learn how to and produce better products. Whether it be Hakuri radish or heritage pork or anything in between I am working with, learning from, and thankfully cooking for the most driven and passionate farmers I have ever met.
My newest concept, The Kitchen at The 404 is scheduled to open in late summer of this year. With only 40 seats and I will not only be able to showcase the bounty of local farmers but will be able to focus on every detail or every plate. Pure food, honestly grown, harvested, and prepared, presented to our guests in hopes of inspiring relationships between people, food, and farmers.