I grew up in a town of 7,000 people in central iowa, where family values and hard work were the most important things in life. No matter how busy life became, it was imperative that you spend some time with your family and friends gathered around the dinner table for a nice meal.
I started working in kitchens–small mom and pop shops around town–as soon as I was legally able to work. I loved the buzz of a kitchen and how great it made me feel knowing I cooked a meal that someone else was enjoying. It is a soul-satisfying feeling.
Upon graduation from high school, I attended the University of Iowa where I studied photography, design, and art history. During that time, I was still working around town at various restaurants at night and watching reruns of Great Chefs of the World and a brand new show called Top Chef. Growing up in Iowa, there wasn’t much exposure to fine dining and haute cuisine. Most people’s idea of a perfect meal was a charcoal grilled steak and potatoes or a BLT with a perfect tomato in the summer time. I was convinced that I would leave school and become a chef.
In 2007, I started working as a line cook at the well-regarded Linn Street Cafe in Iowa City. The food was on a whole different level than I was used to working with and I fell in love with techniques and flavors. After six months, I was promoted to Sous Chef. Six months after that, I was appointed Executive Chef of the restaurant.
At age 22, I had no idea how to run a kitchen, much less a fine-dining kitchen. Nevertheless, I wasn’t afraid to fail and I had the support of a great team of guys around me. We were always pushing each other to try new things and to get better every day.
In 2010, I traveled to New York City to eat and stage for Momofuku and Craft restaurants. I had never been to New York before and within 10 minutes of eating at the bar at Gramercy Tavern, my mind was completely blown. It was a world I never even knew existed and I had to be a part of it. I remember doing a tasting for the chefs at Ma Peche and feeling humiliated afterward. Although I had worked in restaurants for 10 years by that point, I was still a kid from Iowa who knew absolutely nothing about food. I had no choice but to move to New York City and start all over again. I bought a one-way ticket on my way back to Iowa and moved a month later.
I spent four years in New York City working at Ma Peche, then heading up the kitchen at the Murray Hill neighborhood favorite Resto before being landing back at Momofuku Ssam Bar (at the time was a S.Pellegrino World Top 50, NYT 3 Stars). During that time, I met my wife, Samantha, who was working on the pastry team at Michael White’s Marea. We had decided that New York City was not ideal for raising a family, so we moved to her native New Jersey to get married and start a family.
We currently live in Clark, NJ and have two amazing little boys– Wyatt and Frankie.