Creating a great dining experience may seem like magic, but it really takes a lot of hard work… and if your dining experience is helmed by ChefEd Hollingsworth, you could be lucky enough to encounter both! “I was a professional magician for 18 years before I went to culinary school. I specialized in ‘close-up’ magic, playing different venues and events, meeting a ton of people, which I enjoyed… but I felt I needed a change, and I wanted to do something that I really felt passionate about.”
It wasn’t long before he remembered an old trick he learned at home. “My mom was a great cook, and I was always in the kitchen with her. She prepared a meal with great passion; it was such a fun time, and I loved those times with her.” ChefEd had always wanted to give culinary school a try, and he thought “now is the time,” so he enrolled in the Orlando Culinary Academy and was in the second graduating class. “One of the things I learned was how valuable an ingredient salt can be… it pulls so much flavor out of the other ingredients, making the taste more vibrant, more alive. No matter how much salt I used in a dish, my instructors would always taste and tell me ‘needs more salt!’”
“I think it is important to always be looking for new ideas, new ingredients, new ways of doing things. You never know where your next inspiration is going to come from. I love to go to other restaurants, to see what they are like, how they do things, what they are trying or experimenting with.” When asked what drives him and his ideas, ChefEd responds thoughtfully, “You know, as a chef you have to have a deep passion for your craft… you put the love you have for the food on the plate, and the guests respond to it. The presentation is also very important, because even if the dish tastes good, if it isn’t appealing and ‘pretty,’ then it is in bad taste, and the customer will most likely have a bad response.”
What would he advise the aspiring chef? “That’s easy… get a job in a restaurant, any job. I don’t care if it is as a dishwasher, get in the door and in the mix, because it isn’t all glitter and glamorous, like on some food network show. Working in a restaurant is hard work, and it gets crazy, and it gets busy. You may only have 12 minutes or less to get a plate out to a guest, and that is a lot of pressure, and not everyone can take it. At culinary school, some of the students would be doing really well, and then they would get a job at a restaurant, then before you know it, they were dropping out… they realized it just wasn’t something they were made to do.”
When asked what makes his dishes so successful, ChefEd smiles and says a good magician never reveals his best secrets… but then says a good meal really is no secret. “It has to be ‘artistic’ on the plate. You want it to be colorful, bright, and vibrant. Food should paint a picture, tell a story… the plate tells the story of the chef!” One thing is definitely true, ChefEd Hollingsworth can work magic on the plate! Abracadabra, Pesto-Change-O!