Tell me about your career as executive pastry chef for the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club. What are your responsibilities?
My career at Ponte Vedra Inn and Club started back in January 2017. We are currently providing all pastries and desserts for all of our outlets, including but not limited to the Gourmet Shop, Inn dining room, Golf dining, room service, Seahorse, Surf Deck Grill, The Patio, Snack Bar and the Spa dining. We also provide baked goods and desserts for banquet functions, special amenities, specialty cakes, any and all holiday buffets and the occasional cooking demonstration classes. The property is so large, and we have so many dining options, that every day we are doing something different. It makes the everyday work life kind of exciting.
Your job sounds really cool. What do you like best about what you do?
My job is really cool! I like to jokingly imagine me bragging about my job on career day at my son’s school. However, I would actually describe working in this industry as more of a lifestyle than a job — you are driven by passion, and that isn’t something that can be turned off at quitting time. I think that is probably what I like best about my career, the passion! Living it, teaching it and being surrounded by it. I also love creating memories for guests. Birthday cakes, wedding cakes, engagement desserts, gender reveals… all these little parts of an amazing memory that will be in a photo album (or an Instagram feed) for the rest of their lives. And while I may have created tens of thousands of cakes, to the guest it may be their first birthday cake, and helping make an occasion just a little bit more special is what I like most about my career.
Tell me about your background. How did you get to where you are today?
My start in this industry practically began at birth. My family is created by restaurateurs, and farmers. I grew up baking muffins with my dad on Sundays, which progressed to my making my own birthday cakes at the age of 9. I then started working in restaurants at the age of 15 and decided to pursue pastry education at the age of 19. I went and studied under Ewald Notter at the Notter School of Pastry Arts in Orlando. It was an intense program that took just under a year to complete. Once I graduated in 2009, I began as a cook 3 at the Omni Amelia Island Resort. Between 2009 and 2017, I went through every position possible working my way up the ladder. By the time I was 24, I was running the pastry department at Omni. And by the end of 2016, I saw an amazing next chapter opportunity with Ponte Vedra Inn and Club.
If a young person reads this article and is interested in going into your line of work, do you have any advice you can share?
Make sure you have the passion, and do your research. Working in a resort or in a restaurant is nothing short of a grind. But we live for that “hustle and bustle” high. You have to be made for this, you have to have the drive and you have to have the heart. That’s what makes this career my lifestyle — that it doesn’t feel like a job.
Are you from this area originally? What do you like best about living here?
I was actually born in Jacksonville, but growing up I moved to Georgia, a couple different places in Tennessee, Kentucky, back to Georgia and then Florida. I claim Kentucky as my child home because it has a special place in my heart (GO CATS!), but Florida is my forever home. Besides having the majority of my family in this area, my favorite part of living here is the beach and living on the water ... Oh and the food! The up-and-coming food scene in the Northeast area is really fun to follow and watch expand year to year.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to spend my free time with my son, Jonah, 6, who is my biggest fan and my toughest critic. We spend our time in the pool, at the beach, or having intense Nerf gun battles.