Chef Derek Perez, Executive Chef at Luke’s Kitchen and Bar, the third concept restaurant of Chef Brandon McGlamery, located in Maitland, Florida, begins his culinary tale with a simple observation: “I liked to eat.” “My parents and grandparents were really good cooks, my mother was the lunch lady at my school, and in those days, they made everything from scratch. My grandfather was an amazing cook, and since he was Italian and German, we were introduced to a variety of those dishes.”
Upon graduation from high school, Chef Derek decided to go to culinary school, so he enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu. “I decided to just go for it, and I never looked back… I just fell in love with it! I still feel that way now; I love cooking, interacting with guests, being part of and leading a team for lunch or night service… it is still an adrenaline rush!”
Chef Derek’s culinary philosophy can literally be described as “home grown.” “Some of my favorite memories are of my grandfather’s kitchen in Ohio, with my grandmother and grandfather cooking Sunday dinner, the smell of it, how they made everything from scratch, home-made ingredients. We would pick fresh herbs and vegetables from the garden, they grew the best tomatoes ever, and each dish was literally ‘backyard garden to table,’ so the dinner table always reflected what was fresh-grown and in season. When cucumbers would come in, we ate cucumbers… or tomatoes, or squash, that’s just the way it is, you didn’t make a big deal out of it. We treat it the same way here at “Luke’s”… everything comes from a farm, as local as we can get it, and we support our local farmers… that’s what designing a dish or a meal or even a menu is all about, you look at the ingredients, the season, and the flavors available and go from there… it’s just the way it is!”
“At “Luke’s”, we fit together as a family; we have chef de cuisine, Sous chefs, on the line cooks, everybody has a specific part to play. Our flavor profile fits the ‘All American Cuisine,’ which means it’s a melting pot of the world’s flavors, so we get all these unique flavors, and combine them to put a unique spin on our dishes. Whether dining with us for lunch, dinner, or some special occasion, guests can expect something for everyone, with a fresh and unique taste-experience!”
“What is the best advice for young, aspiring chefs? Well, first, stop trying to be a star… this industry isn’t built on fame, money, or even television; it’s about cooking for people, and doing it because you love it. You have to love the food, love the process, love the cooking, love the people… and if you remember that, you’ll be okay, you’ll go places. Just work hard, keep your mouth shut, don’t complain, and keep the business of cooking second in your life, just behind family, because family comes first. If you want to be good at something, it has to be important to you, you have to wake up thinking about it, go to work early to get to it, work hard on it throughout the day, don’t take a break from it, don’t forget about it… don’t even eat, just stay hydrated, drink water, finish and close up, go home and get prepared for the next day. It has to be constant, all the time, it never turns off… as long as you remember that, you’ll be okay.” Wise words from a hard-working a well-respected Executive Chef… and that’s just the way it is!
The next time you are in Maitland, Florida, just stop by “Luke’s Kitchen and Bar” and ask if you can try one of their “fresh” dishes… but you better be hungry, because that’s the entire menu… made possible by the guiding and experienced hand of Executive Chef Derek Perez!
Produced by: Irina Pabis
Photo/Video by: Richard Pabis
Written by: David Morizot