There is a day in the life of a chef where you just plain "understand". You go from being a 22 year old, full of himself braggart who is consumed with all things you believe are necessary and what you think are the most creative ideas on the planet have "never been done" or are "trendsetting" to realize that you can actually do "real good" in the community. Whatever your job is, I hope you Love It! It takes all kinds of people to get each one of us to where we are. Mentors, teachers, friends and yes, enemies too. My journey started at a ice cream shop owned by my sister and brother in law. They wanted to open up a Johnny Mac's Pizza in our town of 900 & serve what we thought was a high quality product. So, I worked... cleaned on slow days & ate lots of ice cream. Time for college came, and, as I thought, a career change. to what, who knows but, something. I got to college the first time, then the second, the third & finally, the fourth... KENT STATE. For sure right? You see, sometimes, college just isn't for everyone. College may not be but, a college town; well, that's a different story.
Kent was a lazy college town that came alive on Monday through Thursday with bars, some restaurants and other nightlife. In exploring Kent, I found that it bordered some cool spots with a little more to offer in the dining scene. One of these towns was Hudson, Ohio. Hip, cool little town with some cash and a up and coming culinary scene. as it, happens, my best friend's brother owned a 54 seat pizza shop/Italian bistro called The Red Tomato that had just opened and he needed some server help. No interview was necessary as my bestie had already vouched for me. I had a job.... in, guess what, the restaurant business. I knew how to make pizzas but, not really a whole lot other than that. I worked my shifts as a server/busboy/host or general dining room contractor but, found myself spending probably too much time watching Ricardo in the kitchen & asking about how to make crab stuffed mushrooms or, what's a picatta and most importantly, how do you break down a leg of veal? See, Ricardo saw it. He saw it before I did. He told me that I had the "it" but, couldn't describe exactly what "it" meant. So, I made a natural progression from facing customers and making lots of cash, to relegating myself to creating the meal for a common hourly rate. I must admit, the taste of keystone light and old Milwaukee got old fast! I was working more hours for less money but, had never been happier! In the kitchen, I had some freedom to create a little, make something of myself, learn a trade... Enter reality check here.
As my kitchen skills grew, so did my EGO. I went from a cook who did what was asked to being a strong minded asshole, full of himself & could do no wrong... At least, when Ricardo was not around. I was gong to open a franchise of restaurants and work 30 hours and watch the $$$ roll in! I had the world by the nuts. I was 21. A year later, with the EGO still strong as ever, Ricardo offered me a opportunity to be a managing partner in another restaurant he wanted to open in Akron's prestigious Merrimen Valley called La Cucina. The restaurant offered mostly the same basic fare as the Red Tomato but, the atmosphere was more striking; no more pictures of Mona Lisa holding a tomato. Now, we had real art, real wine racks and a real kitchen! I really don't know exactly how I could get my head into and out of the door of the restaurant each day. Reviews were strong & things started getting thrown around about the restaurant & questions about the chef creating the great fare. That's all I need right? Accolades aside, I knew it was hard work & I had a mentor who was willing to let me succeed... or fail to an extent. 5 years passed & La Cucina had made it's run but, it was time to move on. We sold the restaurant to a couple of Italian brothers with a prominent name in the greater Cleveland area. They had something that none of us had... Money!! They had grand plans for the restaurant & combined with my EGO, the need was just too great to pass up. See, they bought part of the concept including recipes when they bought the restaurant. They had a chef in mind, he just didn't know it yet. I guess it was how he broke down a leg of veal that sealed the deal for them. Pucci's in the Valley opened to fanfare & rave reviews & for the first time, Executive Chef, Chris Quinn! Although, I had no idea what that meant, I got business cards & I handed them out like candy! Although, I learned more from Ricardo than I could ever imagine, I learned a different side of this crazy business from these new owners. For the first time, I am doing it truly for someone else's benefit & not partially for my own. Sure, I was getting accolades & new opportunities because of it but, something was missing... Connor James Quinn entered my life on March 6, 2002. What a moment in time! Celebration time. At least for a week. I soon was back inside the same four walls I had been inside of for the last 7 years & struggled to stay focused as my love, my heart, was not there... It was at home with my new family. Actual reality check enters. Sales, well, it's sales. Good can be really good & bad... well, can be terrible. But, I was still in food SERVICE. I started to enjoy life in a different way. Home at night. working mostly during the day. Pay increase. Expendable... ABC- Always Be Closing. That's what we're told. Everything you do is an experience that gets you to the next stone. Agreed. So, nearly seven years ago, I had an opportunity to jump onto the next stone in my river of life. It was strange, unexpected but, obvious. A sales route runner, I was not. A sales professional I had become! I took a job from a company that needed a COP specialist(center of the plate)"the meat & fish guy". Within 2 months, clearly, all the life lessons I had learned up to that point positioned me into a natural Culinary guy role. I accepted it for what it was, a job that kept me out of the kitchen at night & gave me an opportunity for growth. I started consulting with customers, interacting day to day. Reading reviews on them, answering their calls & HELPING! You see, this is my moment. I have truly went from being "the guy" to being "the consultant" & although my name is not on any one menu... My influence reaches menus all over half of the Great State of Ohio & I can proudly say that these customers are colleagues, friends, mentors & family... just like me. Being Un-noticed never felt so good. Cheers! Quinney
I had the pleasure last week of participating in my 2nd Dinner in the Dark benefit! What an awesome event that Co-Founders Brian Okin & Jeff Jarrett have created here in Northeast Ohio! This event was at Trattoria Vaccaro in Akron & the food was amazing. Paired with wines to complement the food, the lineup was great. Participating chefs included Aaron Hervey of Crave, Josh Schory of Lucca, (the professor)Jimmy Pintiello from the Blue Door Cafe & Bakery, Matt Mathlage of Light Bistro & (soon to be) Peachtree Southern Kitchen in Hudson. The home team was led by Dick Kanatzar followed by yours truly & an amazing pumpkin dessert by Lauren Shaffer! When food meets a purpose other than just stuffing yourselves, it's even better & this night was all about the Akron Canton Regional Food bank & in the midst of @NOKIDHUNGRY month, it was a fitting "Call to Action". Here's to my new & old chef friends who participated & laid out something that goes like this. Cheers! Quinney eatdrinkcrave.com www.luccadowntown.com bluedoorcafebakery.com www.lightbistro.com www.vactrat.com www.usfoods.com