Q: What influenced you to pursue a career as a chef?
A: I really never considered any other career. Growing up, food was always very important in my family, and the focus was always on food during our family gatherings. So, the family cooking together became the norm for me. It is just what we all did. I guess that just sparked a true love and passion for food for me.
Q: Describe your cooking style?
For me – it’s about a fun, interesting and sophisticated take on old favorites or comfort food. Taking foods and dishes that are familiar and making them unique and upscale. I am not about the “fluff” on a plate. In other words, everything has to have a function, a reason for being there. If the flavors don’t complement each other then the dish doesn’t work. Flawlessly executing cooking techniques and building a layering of flavors, textures, and components is what I constantly strive for.
Q: Who taught you the most about food and cooking?
A: I feel like I was taught at so many different levels. My grandfather grew up in the depression, so he taught me to be frugal and not to waste. My uncle and aunt lived on a farm, Tthey taught me to respect the product from seed to harvest as well as the work that goes into it. My grandmother was of Polish heritage, and she also taught me the qualities of hard work and putting love into the food.
Q: Describe your journey to get where you are.
A: I have worked for the Walt Disney Company for just over 22 years, and it has been an amazing journey! Just before joining the company I was cooking in small restaurants in Toledo, Ohio but was drawn to Disney while I was in college studying hospitality management. The opportunities that I have had at Disney have not only shaped me as a culinarian, but also as a person. I have opened resorts, rehabbed restaurants, worked on new concepts, introduced vendors to WDW, and been at the helm of several of the most popular and exclusive locations on property.
Q: If you could choose any chef dead or alive to spend the day with cooking, who would it be and why?
A: That would be Julia Child, without question! She was truly a passionate and relentless professional who never gave up. She was all about hard work, and details. There were the qualities that made her so great and so well respected.
Q: What is your favorite Chefwear item and why?
I love the waffle patterned jacket! It is super comfortable, stays soft and is not stiff or starchy. The fabric allows me to move so freely and helps to keep me cool in the hot kitchen.
Q: What would your last meal on Earth be and why?
That’s a tough question, but it would probably have a combination of chocolate and some type of pork!
Q: What advice do you have for the future chefs out there?
A: Work hard, ask questions, and never shy away from something that you think is meaningless work. This industry has many types of outlets and styles and all of them are important and can teach you something special and unique. Learn all you can from each experience and use that knowledge to become better and better every day.
Invidividual Awards and accolades
The one accolade that I have personally received that means the most to me is the Disney Legacy Award. It is the highest honor given in our company, and it makes me extremely proud to have earned it.
Awards and accolades - California Grill.
Best restaurant in Florida
Silver Spoon Award from Orlando Magazine
Best Hotel Restaurant
Best Wine List