Q: How long have you been a Chef?
A: I have been a Chef for twenty-four years. I started cooking at the Radisson Hotel on Monroe Street where Hotel Duval now is; where I worked as a Sous Chef for five years. From there I attended Culinary School at Keiser where I was in the first graduating class. I then began an externship at the Governor’s Club downtown under Master Chef Jack Shoop and worked as his Banquet Chef for five years.
Q: How long have you been working at the Tucker Center?
A: About three years now.
Q: Give us an example of a standard catering menu for a party at the Tucker Center?
A: The client has the option to choose between a buffet style meal and a plated meal. Each of these options ranges from basic to very complex depending on the wishes and budget of the client. The buffet can be a simple one protein, one vegetable, and one starch meal or can be structured to include various carving stations and action stations. For plated meals, there are also a lot of variations we can use, ranging from something as simple as pasta to flank steak and shrimp. We are also available to do simple events that only require hors d’oeuvres and cocktails.
Q: What do you consider your specialty/ favorite thing to make?
A: There is not a specific dish I consider to be my specialty, but rather the way I prepare it. I like to find the freshest ingredients available and then utilize them with local ingredients to create the best dish possible.
Q: What is different this year regarding catering options?
A: The biggest difference this year regarding catering options is our ability to go outside of the box for the client. For instance, when we did the Miami tailgate we had a nine-foot spit with whole rounds of beef that we were carving for people. We always try to go a step above and create meals you will remember.
Q: How do you determine what type of ice carving design you create for an event? How long does it take you to create the carving?
A: There are a couple of different factors, functionality and safety: the ice melts an inch per hour so we have to take those details into consideration. We always try to theme our ice carvings to suit the event, but what is most important is that the ice remains looking its best throughout the event.
Q: The Spotlight Grille has some exciting renovations and upgrades in place for this year, can you tell us a little about what has changed?
A: Kenny, our Spotlight Chef, is up there pushing the envelope and creating new meals and ideas all the time. Right now we are running a brand new sandwich and soup station with a panini press in addition to offering more kid-friendly options such as chicken tenders.
Q: The Spotlight Grille is open before and during many events, what kind of experience can we expect dining here this season?
A: During the ACC Basketball schedule we will be featuring an outdoor grill station, a full pasta station with multiple protein options, a full chicken wing station and dessert options, which are often homemade, including Kenny’s key lime pie. No reservations are needed at the Spotlight Grille and when the doors open for an event so does the Grille. If concession foods aren’t your thing, come on up to the Spotlight Grille and have a great meal and a drink at our bar.
Q: The Tucker Center offers offsite catering as well. What kind of events have you done?
A: We have done multiple events at The Turnbull Center, Mission San Luis, The Challenger Center, and private residences for weddings, cocktail parties, luncheons, parties, etc. We are also now a preferred vendor at Florida State University, so we are authorized to cater anywhere on FSU’s campus.
Q: What size events are you equipped to Cater?
A: What sets the Tucker Center apart is the scale of people we can serve. We are able to serve 1,700 people in our Exhibition Hall, which is very hard to find in Tallahassee. For offsite catering, we can either cook everything at the Tucker Center or we can bring our cooking equipment and make your meal onsite. Onsite capability is dependent on the menu selection and where the event is being held.
Q: What are you most excited for in the 2015-2016 event season?
A: There are so many things to be excited for this event season, but I would have to say I am most excited for Gala, which is our biggest event of the year. We are also extremely excited about the Broadway shows and Celebrity Club, because this gives us a chance to put our best foot forward and utilize our creativity in creating menus that we believe to be a representation of our best work.