Chef EJ

Meet Chef EJ

ejatolivesI am a culinary junkie.

My love affair with food began young, with my grandma counting out eggs and blocks of butter for me, standing at her kitchen island mixing up huge batches of cookie dough with little kid hands. It wasn’t until later that I realized that much like any affair, it would consume all areas of my life.

My very first job as a 16 year old was working at a local steakhouse as a hostess for several years. I remember, in a pinch one night,  working an expo shift in the kitchen because we were short handed- I could not get over the feeling of satisfaction and surge of adrenaline after working that first shift in the back of house. After graduating from Catholic Central, I attended Le Cordon Bleu in the Twin Cities in Minnesota. Throughout my schooling, I was part of a team that helped open an upscale dining concept in south Saint Paul called “Enjoy!” Upon graduation, I returned to Grand Rapids and was accepted into an internship program at Flat River Grill in Lowell, a mid-sized bistro belonging to the Gilmore Group.

After completing the internship, I took a position at Centennial Country Club, working for over three years, starting as a line cook, then Sous Chef, and finally Executive Chef.

I fell in love with Olive’s in January of 2008, and it is here that I can do what I love most in the world: creating, talking, eating, cooking, breathing, and dreaming food.

I spend most my time out of work with my better half- we love socializing with our friends, throwing dinner parties, and spending time with our family. I love exploring craft beer, listening to Podcasts while gardening, and decorating our home with furniture I refinish and local art I scout out.

As far as the kitchen goes, I’m inspired by everything. “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” is sitting on the shelf right next to “Miami Spice.” I like clean, simple, and robust flavors. I love global food: Korean, Cuban, Thai, Tuscan, Vietnamese, French, and Indian. The possibilities in a kitchen are bottomless, food trend and knowledge is constantly shifting and changing. Boredom is not at option, knowing it all is impossibility, and that is why I love it so: I thirst for it all.

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