Will is a versatile professional chef and the Regional Executive Chef for Canteen Dining.
We interviewed William about his home, food culture, becoming a chef and favorite inspirations throughout his journey.
Where do you consider to be your Culinary home? A city or country that helped inspire your love of cooking?
It’s funny, I grew up in the Philadelphia area, and have spent most of my life in the North East, but a lot of my culinary influence comes from Southwestern Cooking & Louisiana Creole Cooking. Bisques, Tacos, Jambalaya, Guacamole, salsas, & Gumbos have always been my go to comfort foods. There’s just something about those flavor profiles that I identify with more than any other.
Some say the best way to bring people together is food. What kinds of foods bring your audience together?
I would have to say comfort foods are the best foods for bringing people together. Everyone can identify with foods that they grew up eating. Whether it was something their mother made all the time or their grandmother’s secret recipe, almost everyone has that one dish that when the taste hits their tongue they are momentarily transported back to their childhood.
Foods that cause these types of moments help people open up and share memories and experiences and ultimately bring people closer together.
Cocktails can liven up the Culinary Experience. Where are some of your top choices for Cocktail Hour?
Honestly, I am a beer lover. Give me a great craft beer any day of the week and I’ll be happy. There are so many craft beers available today it is amazing. Pairing a barley wine with a nice braised short rib, or a Framboise Lambic with New York Cheesecake is what it’s all about for me, there are so many styles and flavors of beers, the options are truly limitless.
What food and drink tips can you give our readers?
Follow your heart, eat and drink what you like, don’t worry about what other people think is right. If you like anchovies on your pizza, then eat them, if you want to have a glass of white wine with your steak, then, by all means, do it. Life is too short to not enjoy every bite and sip of every meal.
What is one thing that you hope your readers take away from your social media?
I would hope they take away for my readers would be, don’t be afraid to take chances and experiment with your cooking. Try new ingredients, new flavor combinations, and new cooking techniques. Not everything you make will turn out perfect, but that’s okay, nothing ventured nothing gained.
Has becoming a chef always been your career plan?
I can’t say being a chef was always my career plan. As far back as I can remember I always had a passion for cooking but I didn’t know if it was what I wanted to do my whole life. Like a lot of people I struggled a while to find my place in the world, I took a lot of different jobs to try to find what really interested me, and inevitably always wound up back in the kitchen. One day it just hit me I could make a pretty good living out of doing something that I truly love to do. I consider myself extremely lucky that I found something I am so passionate about.
How would you describe a typical day in your life?
That’s one of the greatest things about my job, no two days are ever the same. There really are no typical days, there is always new menus, new caterings, new customers, and new challenges to adapt to and overcome. It never stops changing.
The Fox Magazine is all about inspiration, what/who inspires you the most?
I draw my inspiration from seasonal ingredients. Each new season brings with it an abundance of new flavors and textures to draw from and experience anew. The seasons keep everything fresh and exciting, this is the only time of the year this particular ingredient is at its best and we want to take full advantage of that.
How do you come up with new ideas for a new dish?
My ideas come from a variety of places, I watch select cooking shows, I peruse social media posts, and I wander the market taking the time to really think about the fresh ingredients available. I look for ways to make a dish I have seen and improve upon it or give it a twist. I usually start with the protein, and once I’ve decided on that, it’s on to the pairings, I think through flavor profiles, textures, and colors. Honestly, I carry a little book with me everywhere I go, I never know when inspiration will hit, so when it does I jot it down in my book to refer to later.
Do you have any tips or tricks for achieving an aesthetically awesome Instagram page? Any social media tips?
For me, the key to achieving an aesthetically awesome Instagram page is to pick one topic you are passionate about, focus solely on that topic and allow that passion you have for your topic to show in every post. Never compromise your page by cluttering it up with off-topic items. As far as tips, I would say it’s not enough to just like posts, you need to be engaged, make comments, give shout outs, and respond to people.
What’s something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
With all of the cooking that I do and the dishes I create, I think people would be surprised to find out that my favorite food is pizza / Stromboli.
What dish have you made that you are the proudest of?
It’s difficult to pick just one dish that I am the proudest of. I take great pride in everything I create. If I had to pick just one, I would have to say it’s my Lobster Risotto with Seahive Cheddar Cheese & Caviar. Not only did this one turn out exactly the way I had envisioned it in my head, but it’s creation also holds a lot of great memories for me.
How did you come up with the name Culinary Alchemist? What does the name mean to you today?
The definition of culinary is of or relating to the kitchen or cookery, and the definition of the alchemist is a person who transforms or creates something through a seemingly magical process.
When you are the Chef and you can take a variety of random ingredients that seem to have nothing to do with one another, and combine those ingredients in the proper proportions with specific techniques to create something new that has the perfect combination of eye appeal, flavor, and texture, how could you not see a bit of magic in that?
What’s your favorite culinary-related motto, quote or words to live by?
Cooking is like love, it should be entered into with abandon, or not at all! – Harriet Van Horne
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