Ibegan cooking at the age of three when my mom caught me my version of “eggies” at the gas stove, while standing on a chair and almost burned the house down. From that point on I’ve been interested in cooking my entire life.”
My dad worked as a cook when I was very young, then changed careers. Since we didn’t have a ton of expendable income, for my sister and myself’s birthday every year he would make whatever we wanted from scratch. My father taught me how to make everything from red sauces to homemade pastas like Bucatini and Ravioli that was taught to him by Italian chefs that he had worked for many years before. He also said “if you were going to be in the kitchen cooking then you need to learn knife skills”, which I had learned by the time I was 15. When I was about 12 we had a huge BBQ trailer behind an icehouse in Houston doing BBQ of all kinds. The summers cooking in that trailer may have been hotter than Hades, but that was my foundation for learning and loving good piece of BBQ.
My grandmother(my mother’s mother) was hands down a truly amazing cook, and I mean she could cook anything on anything at anytime. So when my grandfather was stationed all over the world (France, Germany, Taiwan etc.) in the Air Force, she learned everything she could on local and cultural cuisine from their maids that they were assigned. One day, when I was about 10 or so, I asked her “how do you make your gravy with no lumps?” to which she replied “remember the Béchamel Mother Sauce we made? Just make that with the fat from the sausage or bacon -easy as that”. Little did I know at the time how much of a foundation in the fundamentals of culinary arts I was taught from my family’s love for the world of food. So it may come as no surprise that my favorite TV shows as a youth were Julia Child’s -The French Chef and Great Chefs of the World(which I still watch reruns to this day and learn something new with every episode). Those times in the kitchen with them are some of the fondest memories of my youth.”
I was a Hospital Corpsman in the Navy and when I got out I went back to my first love of food and restaurants. I worked my way through restaurants both in the front of house and the kitchens learning all I could. My father impressed upon me that if I wanted to be in restaurants I should learn EVERY part of them making myself an asset to any organization. After working in restaurants for many years I graduated from Scottsdale Culinary Institute’s Le Cordon Bleu Program with a degree in Culinary Arts and restaurant management and began working mainly in kitchens from Arizona to Texas. While in Culinary School I had worked at Cowboy Ciao for the most amazing chef I had ever encountered Bernie Kantak(chef/Owner of Citizen Pub House in Scottsdale and The Gladly in Phoenix). It was there under his guidance(probably more patience than not) I was able to use all of my skills I had learned up top that point in creating multi-course tastings, features and pairings on a then 2,500 menu wine list.
Later, I served as the Head Culinary Instructor for Collin College’s Culinary Arts AAS program. Where at one time or another, taught every class offered including Basics and Fundamentals, International Cuisine, Saucier, Baking/Patisserie, and Meat Fabrication. While there I authored a teaching manual Fundamentals of Stocks and Sauces, not just for the Saucier course, but as a quick-reference and recipe guide for students to take into their careers.
I then turned my attention to coffee, owning a coffee shop in Boulder, Colorado. There, I truly learned coffee, the science and art of cupping and roasting from Matt Kay, Owner/Master Roaster of Silver Canyon Coffee in Boulder. The first and oldest independent coffee roaster in Colorado still in business. I even have a commercial coffee roaster in my house!
I volunteer teaching about nutrition and healthy cooking and teach classes on the intersection of cooking with essential oils. My new book to be released in the fall of 2019 Essential Oil Eats with Chef John O’Neil will share this topic with the world.
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