My name is Nick Wallace and I am from Earleville, MD. To get more specific, the end of Grove Point. These aren’t the only places that raised me. My dad’s side of the family is from the flat woods in Ashe County, NC, just above the holler at the top of a mountain (hillbillies not rednecks). My mother’s side of the family is from Grafton, WV, a small town skirting the coal mining regions and the place known, or really unknown, for the creation of Mother’s Day. I spent a good amount of my time in both places during the summers off from school. It shaped me in many ways whether learning to can foods and yes, this includes squirrel for gravy, or watching my cousins turn corn into a very interesting clear liquid.
A personal goal for me is to one day own my own restaurant. Nothing too fancy. A small place serving all the food I grew up with. Serving Appalachian classics as simple as leather britches and cornbread (leather britches are pole beans that are hung and dried for the preservation, then cooked with onions and salt basically but it creates a meaty quality and is vegetarian). Or pepperoni rolls with a twist filled with shaved country ham and pimento cheese. And maybe even some BBQ. Maybe.
Educationally, I am always looking to learn more. I owe my knowledge of cooking to a constant curiosity. I just love the idea that if you can truly understand a cooking technique, you can then take that process and apply it to something different to create a whole new dish. I have had the honor of working under multiple great chefs throughout my career that have taught me a lot.
I would have to say that the person I look up to the most is my father. I have never met any other man that can literally do anything you want him to in the blue-collar world. And can learn most new stuff almost instantly. He can almost flawlessly show you how to take a car apart and put it back together, he can build you a house, wiring and all, weld, BBQ, hvac, and so much more. Some say being a mechanic is a dirty low paying job, well they are right. Or I guess I should say it can be. Growing up, my father had his hands in almost all my extracurricular activities. He was my troop leader while in scouts. He always helped me with baseball growing up. He also took us fishing, hunting, shooting, 4-wheeling, and camping plus so much more.
Let’s start at I knew I wanted to cook from a pretty young age. I couldn’t put an exact year on it, but I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with both grandmothers. Making apple cakes, rum cakes, pistachio cakes, biscuits, corn bread, pole beans, and plenty more. I started working when I was …. let’s just say 14 ‘cause I wasn’t legally allowed to work at 13. I was at church and the piano player walked up to me and said, “Your mom said you like to cook. Want a job?” I was like, “Sure, I always did like money.” “She said; ok, they need your help right now.” So, I went to the restaurant and started working a flat top that day.
So, I honestly didn’t know I was applying to work at H5H when I sent in my resume. I used (craigslist) to find the job listing. Robbie called me and said, “We would like you to come in and talk about a possible opportunity with the company.” He said, “Oh and you know me!” It took me a second and some help from him to realize we had done some high-end catering together in Kent county Maryland. I was pretty pleased to find out that he was the chef. I then just grew to like the restaurant more and more.
I came up in old school style kitchens. You were trained and taught and forced to learn how to perform at your worst or your best just the same. If you came in hungover, they rode you harder. You weren’t given the chance to be weak. I have always looked at work as getting paid to do something I love. I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve always wanted to give whomever is paying me their money’s worth. Plus, I was raised to work hard at whatever I do. Another big reason that I always wanted to perform at a high level is that I’m not good at everything like my dad. I definitely didn’t try crazy hard when I was younger so I was usually spoken to or disciplined a good amount, so when I found something I was good at, I wanted to excel and exceed expectations. I also didn’t want my parents to get a bad rap for raising me wrong. They did their best, I swear. Lol 🙂
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