Origins of a Chef – the Pizzaolo

I worked in the foodservice industry for many years before I ever considered becoming a chef.  My first job in high school was bussing tables at a little family eatery around the corner from my house in the small town of Saint Marys, Ohio.  Over the course of 2 ½ years, I worked there as a busser, a host, a cashier, a breakfast buffet cook, and a salad bar attendant.  In college, I worked at a number of restaurants in the front-of-house, including (no surprise to anyone who knows me) Johnny Rocket’s.

It wasn’t until after graduating from college and returning to the industry after a short-lived career in mortgage sales that began shifting my attention to the kitchen.  I took a job as a catering cook for a local upscale grocer in Worthington Hills, where I learned a lot of useful techniques and began to see my own potential as a chef.  When I was laid off the week after the holidays, I was totally devastated.  I had never had so much fun and learned so much in such a short period of time.  I didn’t want to lose momentum, so I hit the pavement looking for my next opportunity.

There just so happened to be brand new restaurant being built in Westerville on the shores of the Hoover Reservoir.  Dubbed “Hoover Grille,” the waterfront diner would serve a full line of dining options, including brick oven pizza.  Chef Jay Yardley took me under his wing, taught me the ropes, and after quickly impressing him with my professionalism and creativity, he very soon set me free to begin developing featured pizza combinations.

My first gourmet pizza boasted a pesto sauce base, mixed pizza cheese, cabernet marinated grilled chicken, thinly sliced roasted red pepper, and chunks of artichoke heart. I called the combination a “Tuscan Chicken Pizza;” Chef Jay, against my wishes, dubbed it “Kibby’s Choice Pizza.”  It remained that way on the permanent menu for years to come.

A few years later, I began my education at Columbus State Community College.  I moved my employment to Cameron Mitchell Restaurants – a company known for its high standards and its long tradition of employing apprentices from the ACF-accredited program.  I worked at Marcella’s Italian in the Short North where I made – you guessed it: brick oven pizzas.  I guess I'm drawn to the pizza oven like a moth to a flame.  It was there that I refined my techniques and broadened my range of creative and delicious toppings.

I have learned to make much more than just a good pizza in all my years (though I could probably teach you a thing or two about homemade pies), and I look forward to sharing this knowledge with you.  Click on the calendar to find a session that's right for you.

About KibbyJim Kuebler