How did you get into the restaurant industry?
I needed a job. I was 18, and my dad had a friend who owned a BBQ restaurant. In nicer words, he was like, “Hey, you need to go up there and get a job.” I started working as a dishwasher; after about a year and a half of working there, I’d done pretty much everything on the line.
I moved to Austin, TX, and needed a job. At first, I worked at a couple places like a Motorola plant, and then I worked at Sam’s Club. I said “I’m bored with this; I’m going back to cooking.” I worked at a few BBQ restaurants in Austin and eventually went to Le Cordon Bleu.
What is your favorite part about being part of the FGR family?
That. It’s family. I’ve never worked for a restaurant group that’s cared as much as they do about their team and all the people who work for them and help them do the day in and day outs of this industry. They really care about their employees. You see that in how they take care of their employees, whether it’s the benefits or owners knowing names of faces whether you’re a dishwasher or chef. That says a lot. You spend a lot of time in the restaurant and not a whole lotta time with your family, so the people you work with become your family.
Where did you grow up?
I’m originally from Winterhaven, FL, born and raised. The job with Fifth Group (Executive Chef at Alma Cocina Downtown) is what brought me to Atlanta in July 2011.
What was your favorite meal as a child?
I ate a lot of bad stuff that I probably shouldn’t have. Probably my favorite meal growing up was biscuits and gravy outside of eating raw cake batter on my Momma Jewel’s counter. I would sit there while she’d bake cakes, and I’d eat raw cake batter. I would eat salted butter out of the pantry.
My mom’s mother made the best biscuits. I try to mimic those; when people have my biscuits they really enjoy them and always want the recipe. I don’t necessarily have a recipe. I never even saw a recipe, but I know the main thing is that it had mayonnaise in it.
What is a fun fact about you?
I’m scared of heights. When I get so high up and look over the edge, I get a crazy feeling running through my body and instant anxiety. So there’s that.
I grew up in and out of a shellfish allergy. As a kid growing up in Florida, I ate shellfish all the time, and then in my 20s, I became allergic to shellfish. A few years ago, I was at the doctor and asked for an allergy test. It came back that I was only allergic to hazelnuts, which I eat all the time.
What part of town do you live in?
I live in East Atlanta Village. When I moved here, I told Steve Simon I want to live within a fifteen minute drive from work. In the entire eight years I’ve lived in Atlanta, I’ve always lived on the East Side, whether Kirkwood, Grant Park and now East Atlanta Village.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Atlanta when you’re not working?
All my days off, I spend with my wife running errands and going out to eat. I would say going out to eat and drink are our hobbies. We have a new puppy so now some of that off time is spent doing puppy things – vet visits, walking, training the dog. It’s a boxer. I like to play golf, but for the most part, we like to hit up all the neighborhoods and go to concerts.
What’s your (food-related) guilty pleasure?
I love good BBQ. I love good Mexican food. Cheese and ice cream. I like a lot of Mexican cheese and a lot of stinky cheese. Growing up, my parents used to call me part rat. I don’t eat a ton of ice cream anymore, but when I do, it’s usually a lot at one time.
What’s your favorite travel destination?
Mexico. Oaxaca is great. I want to see more of Mexico City. I definitely want to get to Japan at some point too.
I grew up in the 80s and 90s. I like Rage Against the Machine and hope to get tickets to see them later this year. I like System of a Down and Stone Temple Pilots. Outkast as far as hip hop goes. I like a little of everything. My dad owned music stores and played BB King and Eric Clapton and Hendrix type stuff, so I grew up listening to a lot to that.
Favorite celebrity chef?
My favorite chef is probably David Kinch or Enrico Olvera. David Kinch is in Los Gatos, California. He owns Manresa, which is a three-star Michelin. Enrico, I’ve never been to his restaurant in Mexico City, but I’ve been to Cosme in New York City. I thought it was awesome, and I appreciate what he’s doing.
What are three adjectives that best describe you?
Hard headed, passionate and caring.
Who inspires you most in your career?
My wife. She’s a big inspiration. She’s there to push and help me get through things I have issues with. She’s a little more level headed than I am and sees things differently sometimes. I react a lot, where she’s not so much to react. She’ll sit on it and process things a little differently. She’s helped to inspire me over the past few years that I’ve been with her.
If you could invite one person, living or dead to dinner at a Fifth Group Restaurant, who would it be, where would you take them and why?
My mother, and I’d bring her to Alma. I’d cook for her. That’s it.