From croutons to cooking school.

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Hi, my name is Chef Kibby, and this is me when I was just a boy playing with my first toy kitchen.

I’d be lying if I told you I had always dreamed of becoming a chef.  Being from a small town in rural Ohio, I was accustomed to simple, Midwestern fare - meat and potatoes sort of stuff – and, let’s face it, professional culinarian was not a career option that was ever mentioned by the high school guidance counselors.

Growing up, I enjoyed helping my mom around in the kitchen, forming meatballs and washing dishes.  Yet there was something about me that you might find a bit ironic: I, the now certified chef who has spent the last 20+ years of his life in and around the food service industry, was a very picky eater.  My parents won’t let me forget it either, reminding me that whenever we went out for pizza, the only thing I’d eat were the croutons off the salad bar.

How did I get from croutons to cooking school?

Two things helped to catalyze my career; the first was a 10-day trip to Japan when I was fifteen years old.  I don’t remember much of what I ate.  Unfortunately, we had been forbidden by our trip organizers from partaking in sushi due to a scare over the poisonous fugu fish, but we had some killer grilled meats, and my first taste of takoyaki (look it up).  Putting myself into a situation where I was forced out of my culinary comfort zone made me a more adventurous eater. 

The second shift in perspective came when I left the countryside for life in the big city.  I attended The Ohio State University in Columbus, a city rich with ethnic diversity and almost every restaurant concept imaginable. This was when I began to enjoy food – Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Greek, Lebanese, and Ethiopian, to name a few - and become enamored with cooking.  I started by doctoring up the box mixes to which I had become accustomed and eventually moved into full ethnic immersion, cooking so much stir-fry that my roommates couldn’t stand it anymore.

My career in food service has spanned 20 years now, working nearly every possible position in a vast array of food and dining concepts.  I have bussed tables, I have managed multiple franchise accounts, I have catered massive banquets, I have served celebrities, and I have put on a show for international corporate executives.

One of the lessons I have taken from my years of experience – and I hope to bring to you as you take my courses – is that food matters; eating is something we have to do, we need to do, and we all can enjoy doing.  Food gives us strength and energy, provides nutrition for all facets of bodily health, and allows us an opportunity to stop whatever else we are doing and spend time with other people.

I hope you’ll take the time to cook with me.  I’ll plan the menu, shop for the ingredients, and set up everything you need.  Come, bring a friend, and let’s learn and love to cook together.

About KibbyJim Kuebler