Today we will meet some more chefs in the "Meet the Chef" series. It has been fun chatting with successful cooks and chefs in the area. I usually forget why I am there and just enjoy listening
The Holiday Inn
The first chef is Steve Bromford, Holiday Inn's Chef of many years. If you know Bromford, you know that he prefers to be behind the scenes. Lucky for us, his contribution to our largest hotel is not. Bromford grew up in Canajoharie and started in the business at age 15. He worked as a bell boy, running the elevator at the Adler Hotel in Sharon Springs.
"I worked with my friends and we could swim in the pool when our work was done," Bromford said.
Bromford's dad would just stop by to say hi now and then.
Bromford went away to college in the north at Paul Smith's College. He majored in Hotel Management, but leaned more toward the cooking end of things. After Paul Smiths' cold winters, Bromford headed to Fort Lauderdale, where he worked at the Stage Coach Inn preparing up to 300 meals a day, good practice for today's holiday banquets.
When I asked him how he decided to come back, he explained that he was home one summer.
"I knew Jim and Angelo and was sitting at the Holiday Inn Bar and it just happened," he said
"How did you become the head chef?" I then asked.
"I just was head chef from day one," he answered. I asked if he had to follow Holiday Inn recipes. "No, I pick what I want to serve for lunch and dinner. For breakfast we follow the Holiday Inn's choices."
Bromford replaced longtime chef, Bob Dixon, and now Steve has been there longer - 25 years. "I don't cook much anymore," he said.
Bromford is responsible for the menu, ordering, kitchen employees, control and the finances of the kitchen.
"Well, you have Fritz, " I said. and Steve told me Jim Longfritz had been with the Holiday Inn for about 18 years, which was a surprise to me. I thought he was still a kid.
I asked Bromford what challenges he has had. He told me the story of the Valentine's Day storm.
"We had a packed hotel and no one was going anywhere. Fritz and I cooked 100 meals with no power."
A dauting task, even for such a capable chef.
I was most surprised when I learned that Bromford is a "cataholic." He loves a breed called the "Rag Doll" cat and even went to Atlanta to get a custom cat. I looked them up on Google and immediately wanted one.
Bromford lives in Gloversville and has one adult son.
Grandma Millie's Bakery
The next chef is not really a chef but a family of chefs. We all know that Grandma Millie's Bakery, known for its decadent delicacies, is run by Chauncey McCormick. But do you know that McCormick's recipes and ideas come from her real Grandma "Millie," and that McCormick's son and his wife Ellen contribute their skills to this operation? Jason and Ellen, a Jersey girl, met while obtaining their degrees at the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, Dutchess County.
McCormick started cooking with her grandmother and learned to love the process.
"After working for a bank for 11 years, I knew that what I really wanted was to run a bakery."
And so, with carrot cake her speciality, she opened a bakery on Main Street in Johnstown. Jason inherited the bakery "gene." He does much of the baking but doesn't have the patience for decorating. This is where Ellen comes in with three tiered cakes, her speciality.
Today McCormick leaves much of the work to Jason and Ellen. When asked about her "closet" indulgence, McCormick said, "Jason's butter cream."
However, all three chefs say besides food, their real passion is people.
"We want people to feel that they just walked into our house," Ellen said.
"Our customers are family, not just numbers," McCormick explained.
Sounds like a good recipe for any chef.
Today, the last - and in no way least - chef is Lee Woliver, head chef at the American Hotel in Sharon Springs. How did he get started? Woliver explained that as a self proclaimed "professional college student," he had to pay the bills, so he worked in restaurants. In and out of colleges and restaurants over the years, Lee learned and earned his "chops," so to speak.
His first restaurant job was when he and his wife, his high school sweetheart, worked for Brian Hanaburgh (know him?) at the Herkimer McDonald's in 1979. But it was when he moved to Dallas for four years that he got the passion for a higher level of cuisine. Woliver worked in earnest as everything from a line cook to a sous chef in different places.
"In those days people followed the apprentice system," he said.
Woliver said he followed the philosophy, "Do what you are taught and drive to ask questions about how things are done."
Returning to the area, Woliver worked six years at the Raindancer, then cooked at the College of Saint Rose's food service, then at Melody Lodge in Speculator.
At Melody, Woliver developed his own style. He only left when his cousin, Garth Roberts, and friend, Doug Plummer, opened the American Hotel.
"Now, I have free reign and have developed a three-page menu with items from my many experiences. I have been there 13 years. I have a great job. It's like going to a party every day.
"I was always interested in food. The youngest of five, I was dragged to restaurants. I remember trying scampi before even the waitress knew what it was."
In his spare time, Woliver collects old guitars. Another animal lover, Lee claims that today they are down to three cats.
You can meet these chefs at the Soroptimists's Celebrity Chef Dinner April 7 at the Holiday Inn.