For the love of all that is delicious: An interview with a cook

Joey Taylor in all of his glory. Yes, the bottom part of his pants are on his arms. He doesn’t exactly possess a lot of professional pictures.

It pays to love a cook, especially when all you know how to make is canned soup, spaghetti and hamburgers (kind of).

During the two and a half years that my fiancé Joey and I have been together, he’s always had a knack for creating tasty home dishes. He’s taught me several little tricks to making the simplest of meals a delicious treat. I never would have thought to add vegetables, egg and various spices to ramen without him showing me first.

I’ve watched him go from working fast-food, to serving, to dish-washing to holding a position as a line cook. I’ve watched him return to school to pursue a degree in biblical studies, theology being one of his passions, but it wasn’t until he began cooking for a living that he discovered his true calling (besides being a devout Christian and a great future husband).

The restaurant industry is challenging, and line cooks are certainly not excluded from this truth. It can be difficult, stressful and strenuous work, but it can also be incredibly satisfying.

After working for just shy of two years at the Marietta Brewing Company in Marietta, Ohio, otherwise known as “the brewery” to locals, Joey moved an hour away to live closer to me while I went to school and got a job that would inevitably further his cooking experience and food expertise.

He was hired at Sol Restaurant in Athens, Ohio as a line cook and just after a few months of working there is the lead cook during the dinner hours. His excitement about learning how to make new dishes and foods is strikingly apparent and often carries over into his off-time (he made a killer sauce for Thanksgiving that was very similar to Sol’s “Island Sauce”).

As I pursue a career as a journalist, Joey works hard to improve his cooking skills with the goal of one day becoming a chef and opening a restaurant. But enough gushing from me, it’s time to hear from the turd man himself.

Who taught you how to cook?

I was taught by many people throughout my life and continue to be taught by people at every moment along the way. My dad and uncle were great cooks when I was growing up, and my mom has always been an influence in her light and fresh foods.

When I started cooking at the brewery it was Jason Morgan and Nick Farley who poured themselves into me, continually telling me they saw promise in me and that if I applied myself I could go places in the culinary world. I owe the discovery of my love of cooking to these guys first and foremost. I do continue to learn from everyone I can along the way still.

When did you start cooking for yourself?

I started cooking for myself in junior high with after school snacks being simple things like home fries or nachos. Really simple stuff at that point. It wasn’t until I started working in a kitchen that cooking for myself, but mostly for others, took a spin to the more fun endeavors of raspberry glazed fish tacos and steak fondue.

At what point did you realize that you loved cooking?

The moment I started cooking in a restaurant setting. The high paced work, the attention to detail, even the stress and then the end result being a piece of art that every single person in the world appreciates, resonated with my soul immediately and I knew this is what I loved doing.

That doesn’t mean I don’t get fed up at times though. The bureaucracy and politics of the restaurant world are frustrating and a waste of time personally, but that doesn’t mean everyone around you will try to get into them instead of being the best cook they can.

Who would you say is your biggest influence when it comes to cooking?

Influence? The person I’m cooking for is the biggest influence as I will try to cater to what they love. Inspiration? The two guys that introduced me to this world and had my back from the very beginning.

Sol’s Cuban themed menu is quite different from the pub food sold at the brewery. Was the change from the brewery to Sol drastic?

For the most part the menus are incredibly different. I went from cooking pub styled food where over half the menu is heavily breaded and either baked or fried to cooking with tropical fruits and pan seared fish for a good portion of the dishes. I’ve cooked more fish in two months at Sol than I probably cooked in two years at the brewery.

I wouldn’t say the change is drastic though. At the end of the day cooking is cooking is cooking. In the heat of a dinner rush, you aren’t thinking about ingredients used in a specific dish but instead about getting the food cooked to the correct temperature and consistency to make the dish right. So I guess when it comes to prep it’s two different worlds, but when I’m actually cooking, it is exactly the same.

How has working at Sol expanded your culinary knowledge? What are some major lessons that you’ve learned?

The way it’s expanded my culinary knowledge isn’t even in the major lessons. I’ve learned a lot of cool things about Cuban cuisine, mostly in the realm of smoking meat and the ability to incorporate decadently sweet tropical fruits into almost any dish.

The major lessons I’ve learned from Sol though are management abilities. I’ve actually got a team of people cooking underneath me on any given shift now and that’s a little bit daunting. It’s so daunting that I actually fought the idea that I was in charge until I started getting in trouble for not managing the kitchen during a shift.

I started into this field a very short time ago and now I’m in charge of training more people how to cook. The only thing I can hope is that I have the same effect on someone that Jason and Nick had on me.

Have you decided on what type of food will be sold at the restaurant that you’ll one day open?

I really like your everyday American foods. Burgers, chicken sandwiches, pizza and definitely wings are all fun to make, satisfying and people love them. I’m not really decided on a style of food as much as my dream pushes me to find a way to get the freshest ingredients available. If you make a grilled with fresh and natural ingredients, more people will love it than a frozen New York strip from a major food supplier.

What is your ultimate goal?

My ultimate goal is to use my gifts and talents to bring glory to God. Whether that means I keep cooking for the rest of my life or start working in a different field, I want people to know where my allegiance lies. He’s given me this life and my talents and everything I do is for His glory.