This week we sat down with Chef Brian Hulihee of Roaring Fork. The last time we checked in with Chef Hulihee in 2010, he talked about his young family and his excitement over pink sea salt. This time, he's celebrating his tenth year anniversary working at the restaurant. Oh how time flies...
Today we're asking how this father of two entered the culinary world and how he feels about being the big cheese.
Hulihee, who formerly worked at Lon's at the Hermosa, graduated from Scottsdale Culinary Institute in 2002. After spending years working the front of the house, he made what he considers a "career change" and decided to get into the kitchen. Although he thought he knew how to cook, Hulihee soon learned that he had some real learning to do.
"You usually do it the other way around," says Hulihee. "Start in the back and move to the front, but I kind of went backwards."
Not to say it didn't work out. Hulihee soon found himself working at the now-closed Florentine steakhouse Bistecca and sharpened his skills at several top-tier restaurants before landing at Roaring Fork. The father of two, explained how and why he set his sights early on achieving the role of executive chef.
"I've always tried to compete. I've always been a competitive person and I guess when I got into this industry, Food Network was going off at the time and you see all these celebrity chefs and I was like, 'That's what I want to do.' So that was my goal...at least short term."
Before taking the reins in one of Scottsdale' s iconic kitchens, Hulihee worked closely with Roaring Fork's founding chef, Robert McGrath, for more than half a decade. The experience even included cooking at the famed James Beard House Kitchen in New York City. With years of experience and familiarity with the Roaring Fork's wood-fired Southwest fare, did Hulihee feel prepared to become the star?
"I was a little bit prepared, but I guess, when you become an executive chef...all eyes are focused on you. It definitely took some time to get used to."
We asked Hulihee how he feels the move from front to back is working out and how he's crafted his identity as a chef. In the age of celeb-chefs, big personalities can often balloon out of the kitchen and into everything else. But Hulihee, not a particularly out-spoken guy, continues to stay humble stressing teamwork and the capabilities of his staff.
"I'm neither the reclusive chef, nor the always-out-of-the-kitchen type. One does not work without the other. Its definitely a big, team, unity place...we definitely try not to have the walls up between the two."
Tomorrow Chef Hulihee shares some of his childhood memories and talks about the inspiration he got from his grandfather, who was also a cook.