Origins of a Chef – a Wok to Remember

When I began to consider an image to use in creating a logo for Cookin’ with Kibby, the first item that came to my mind was the wok.  I can think of no other kitchen item that better frames my career than a wok.

The book that started it all.  Still got it!

The book that started it all.  Still got it!

I bought my first wok when I was about 20 years old.  Living in an apartment off-campus at the Ohio State University, I found a tiny hole-in-the-wall Asian market that sold everything I could possibly need for authentic Chinese stir-fries (so long as the packaging was written in English).  My first purchase was a wok, a few staples, and a cookbook.  From there, I went to work, digging through the pages of that book for anything and everything that sounded delicious and approachable for an amateur like me.  After months of cooking almost nothing that wasn’t from the book, I had a firm grasp of the basics (and roommates that were sick of the redundancy).

Fast forward to culinary school.  I was tremendously blessed with the opportunity to work for Cameron Mitchell Restaurants – perhaps the best company for which I have ever worked.  Among the concepts in which I was stationed was Molly Woo’s Asian Bistro.  Although I was a sushi chef, I did have the occasional time in front of the wok.  When I wasn’t in front of the wok, I was watching the wok line, studying their techniques.  I also studied what went into the wok line – how the ingredients were sliced, diced, and marinated in preparation for their short toss in the pan.

I later took a job cooking at the dining facilities inside a nearby Japanese auto manufacturer (as if I needed to tell you which one).  My background in wok cookery became a huge advantage for me, especially when it came time to open a café in their new North American headquarters.  As you can imagine, the demands were higher, and the need for more authentic Japanese cuisine was a challenge that I was prepared to face.  Weeks of research and preparation turned into months of continuous kaizen (Japanese for improvement or perfection) and recipe development, much to the appreciation of the client.  The quality of my dishes not only gained me a reputation around the auto company (especially with the native Japanese associates), but also landed me in the position of training other culinarians from within the foodservice corporation, even traveling out-of-state to educate kitchen associates on the finer points of Japanese cooking.

Although I ended up picking a more familiar saute pan as my branding image (so as not to confuse anyone into thinking I was only teaching stir-fry techniques), the wok has taken me many places over the years.  You could say it's been a long wok, or perhaps a wok to remember, or a wok around the block... Whatever pun you choose, I've been venturing into a variety of culinary styles from around the world and am offering my experience and expertise to help equip you to cook better at home - ethnic or otherwise.

Visit my sessions page to find the topic you are interested in learning.  Come and spend a few hours with me in the kitchen and see what new experiences await you.

About KibbyJim Kuebler