Tom’s first summer job was at his aunt and uncle’s café in Clinton, Oklahoma, where Tom was born and raised. But that’s not to say it was his first cooking job. Being the middle child in a brood of nine, Tom’s daily chore was feeding his younger siblings. What might have scared off weaker souls led to a lifetime vocation for Tom. After stints in the kitchens of the Ritz Carlton and Marshall Fields in Chicago, Tom moved to California to attend Cordon Rouge, a private culinary school in Marin County. There he learned the classic French techniques of the famed Cordon Bleu in Paris, France.
Before joining Betty as the executive chef in 1990, Tom was the pastry chef at Zuni Cafe (a Gourmet Magazine top 100), where he perfected his dessert repertoire that still dazzles today, and the executive chef at Alta Plaza, a fine-dining establishment on Fillmore Street. “After all these years of cooking, it comes down to a few basic techniques. Once you’ve mastered those, you can cook anything,” says Tom. And cook anything he does. From fresh Vietnamese spring rolls with nuoc nam sauce to Arborio rice croquettes with Italian salsa verde, Tom keeps the cuisine at BZC creative and up-to-date.
Tom brings a focus and concentration to his culinary realm that he gains in his avocation: meditation. For the last ten years Tom has been practicing daily meditation and has even become a meditation instructor. He also practices yoga. When not meditating or breaking new culinary ground, Tom donates his time and resources to such community organizations as Project Open Hand and Frameline.