Meet Tom

Tom is the creator of my all time favorite WHBC food – the Shrimp and Grits.  Seriously, you need to run your buns down here on a Sunday to get some.  Best thing ever.  I surprised him with his interview because of my lack of planning this week, but he took it like a champ.
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Quick Facts:
Name: Thomas Owen
Age: 38
Position: Sous Chef
Birthplace: Baltimore, MD
Favorite WHBC  Beer: Bell Ringer
Favorite WHBC Food: BBQ
Education: TCC Culinary Program

WHBC: Thanks for taking a a little while to sit and chat with me today!  I know it was a surprise!  So you were born in Baltimore; how did you get here to Smithfield?
T: My parents.  Ha ha.  We moved here when I was 2 or 3 months. My dad worked for Smithfield Foods and got transferred here.
WHBC: How long have you been a chef?
T: I am a culinary graduate from Tidewater Community College. I worked at The Grille, Reel Inn, and here.  I’ve been cooking since I was about 15 years old; it just seems like second nature.  I had chefs in my family, so I got into it and started doing my own thing.
WHBC: Do you remember the first thing you ever made and thought to yourself, “Self, this is good!  I can do this!”
T: Hmmm.  I can’t exactly remember, but it was probably BBQ – I’ve been around pork my whole life.  It’s my favorite.
WHBC: So tell me, are there any cardinal sins of BBQ?  I’ve heard some chefs get very offended if you do certain things to your BBQ (like put coleslaw right on top – sorry not sorry).
T: For people who cook it, it’s that they don’t let it cook long enough.  They try to rush it, but you can’t rush good BBQ – you have to take time and have patience.  As far as eating it, to each his own.  I guess I could say try the meat before you drown it in sauce.
WHBC: You’ve worked here how long?
T: Since we opened.  I grew up with Betty’s youngest daughter, so I knew their family.  When Pam told me about Wharf opening, I came over.  Betty, Pam, and I have been working together since we were all at The Grille.
WHBC: Your culinary education?  What does that consist of?
T: I have two degrees actually. One in Culinary and the other in High Voltage Electricity.
WHBC: Ha! Do you ever use both degrees at the same time?!
T: I try not to…that’d be a little shocking.
WHBC: Do you have advice for someone who might want to be a chef one day?
T: Well, when I was a teachers aid at school, I told the students if you don’t have a passion for it, you won’t succeed.  Whatever your passion, just do it.  Working in a kitchen is hard and you have to be committed.
WHBC: Great advice!  So even though it’s tough, what’s your favorite part about working here?
T: The people.  Definitely.  Dave is an amazing person to work for, and the rest of the guys all bust their butts.  It’s a really great work environment.  I’m impressed everyday at how hard everyone works to put out really great food.
WHBC: Do you have a favorite shift you like to work?
T:  No.  This isn’t a job, it’s my passion, so I work whenever I can.
T: We are always joking around.  All the staff is serious about our jobs, but we have a good time.  It’s always been my motto if you can’t have fun at work, why do it?
WHBC: Agreed!  There are times I’m sure it’s less fun than others.  What is your strategy for getting through those crazy busy times?
T:  Just hunker down and get the job done.  There’s no sense in worrying about things, just do it.
WHBC: So when you’re done working, what do you do to unwind?
T: Time off?  Is there such a thing?!  Well, I have a wife, an 8 year old daughter and a 4 year old son.  I spend all my free time with them.  We like to travel; we just came back from a vacation at the beach, we went to Disney a little while ago.  Anything to get outside and hang out with them.
WHBC: Cool.  So last question so you can get back to work.  If you could have a superpower, what would you pick?
T: That’s a loaded question.  Hmmm.  I’d say the power to heal.
WHBC:Why that one?
T:My father has cancer, and I’d want to be able to heal him.
WHBC: That would be a great power to have…
Now that I’m crying into my beer, we’ll end the interview.  If you see Tom emerge from the kitchen, be sure to say hello!
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