Happy to introduce you to a Real Chef: Chandler Tomayko.
1) Who Are you?
My name is Chandler Tomayko. I am 28 years old. I am a Chef, a Traveler and a freelance Photographer. I have spent the past several years participating in culinary workshops around the world, learning about different cultures, working in different restaurants, teaching and collaborating with professionals in different fields. I have two blogs: thechefwithredshoes.wordpress.com started out as a way for me to keep tabs on what I was doing while traveling and working. My second blog: chandlertomaykophotography.wordpress.com is my online photography portfolio.
2) What do you like about what you do?
I love that cooking allows me to be completely present. I have to use all 5 senses at all times, so there is not a part of me that isn’t involved. I sensory check myself constantly to see what it is that I am seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting. I am in awe of how cooking brings people together. My travels have proven that regardless of language barriers, cultural differences and social inequalities, hungry people around a table can communicate and enjoy themselves.
3) What don’t you like about what you do?
Fortunately in my line of work I get to meet people from many countries and different cultural backgrounds. Many of these people are immigrants or ex-pats. The ugly underbelly of the culinary world is the exploitation you will find. Too many employees are overworked, underpaid and unappreciated. I see hardworking individuals who are tired and hungry, who still put forth their best effort to feed others who are tired and hungry. When was the last time you stopped to think how many hours the cook who made your dish has worked, or how much he is being paid or if he has had time to eat today? Kitchen families are unique. We miss our own family’s holidays, birthdays and special moments so we can provide those for other people. Most cooks will laugh at a 12 hour shift, because to us it is a thing of myth. I have been placed in situations where the only way for me to help, after exhausting all options, is to walk away to show my lack of support for the mistreatment of restaurant employees.
4) Please tell us all about your blog and your aims with it.
My first blog: thechefwithredshoes.wordpress.com has become a log of any culinary adventure, mistake, experiment, project or trip I undertake. I accept invitations, challenges and from time to time even a request or two. My main aim is to create a network of culinary oriented individuals who are generous with their knowledge. I am constantly seeking new participants who are willing to pass on a technique, host a traveling chef or share a useful tip.
My second blog: chandlertomaykophotography.wordpress.com serves as a portfolio for those interested in looking at my work for leisure or for those interested in hiring my services. I also accept photography subject/theme/project ideas to expand my repertoire. I like to be pushed of think outside of the box.
5) Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
- Every 2 years I attend Salone del Gusto. It is an international culinary festival that is just too awesome for words. Every time I visit amazing things happen, I meet the most interesting people and I sample some of the best food I have ever tasted. However on my first visit one of the coolest cultural things I have ever been a part of happened. At the end of each day, vendors, artisans, chefs, expositors and event staff pack up and set up things for the next day. They carry things out to their vehicles and clean their stands. This one evening there was a “traffic jam” of people carrying things and it came to a full halt in this open space right before an exit door. All festival visitors were already gone. The people from all different countries looked around at each other, kind of using body language to encourage each other to go first. This one guy while waiting set down his ice cooler and tapped out a beat like it was a drum. Another guy looked over at him, set down the box he was carrying and tapped out the same beat. In a matter of seconds an impromptu band was made with pots, pans, spoons, boxes, packages of rice and other random items. The song Guantanamera by Celia Cruz was being sung in multiple languages at once. I was pulled in by some random gentleman who tried to dance with me. We failed miserably and just swayed next to each other, laughing instead. As soon as the song was over, everyone picked up their things, smiled and filed out to their cars. It was a naturally occurring flash mob of sorts and it was incredible.
- When I visited London I was walking across the courtyard for the Royal Guardsmen museum and overheard a frustrated tourist from Mexico trying to talk to a veteran in uniform. I offered to translate and was appalled when the tourist wanted me to ask the nice gentleman if he had served in the first world war, when he was obviously not a day over 70! William Miles was the guardsman’s name and he was so tickled with my unexpected assistance that he invited me out to join him for a private reception being held at the museum, treated me to lunch afterwards and we then attended a royal guardsmen concert. The following day I was invited to meet some of his friends at the Royal Chelsea Hospital and visit an art exhibit. I could not have had a better guide.
- I worked and lived in the middle east for a short period. In Abu dhabi to be exact. It is not an experience I am fond of. During one of my lowest point towards the end of my trip I was scheduled to be on a stand by flight for a visa renewal trip. I had been sent by my employer over the border to Oman. They had guaranteed me that I would be able to get on the return flight they had scheduled. I was sick with the flu, suffering from headache, fever and chills. I was not provided with a means to get accommodation, I had packed only what I needed for the less than 24 hours I was supposed to be there. Of course, the flight was full, no space for stand bys. I had no phone to reach my employer, it was late and the next flight was over 5 hours later. Then I met Ahmed. An omani native that much to much luck worked for the airline and was on standby as well. He helped me reschedule my flight. We sat and talked at a coffee shop while waiting for the flight and asked each other all the uncensored questions we could think of regarding the other person’s culture. We became fast friends and during the remainder of my stay in the middle east, we played games, I taught him to cook and introduced him to s’mores. He was the highlight of my entire stay in Abu Dhabi. Wish I had met him sooner!
6) Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
- I almost never travel somewhere new without using Couchsurfing. If you are unfamiliar with the movement, Couchsurfing is a volunteer-based worldwide network connecting travelers with members of local communities. Over the years I have been hosted by multiple people from the organization and each one has enriched my trips with their local insights, recommendations, how to’s and what not to do’s and above all their company!
- Suites del Paradiso in Osara di Puglia, Italy. It is a place that was created by my good friend and colleague Peppe Zullo. The hotel is beautiful, simple and elegant but unpretentious. You wake up to mornig dew in a vineyard and a view of a town that dates back to the 1600’s. This place is the epitome of what you would imagine the Italian countryside to be like. The hospitality is very welcoming. Far enough from the little town to create an atmosphere of seclusion, but close enough where you can visit historic sites, meet Italian locals, sip an espresso in the afternoon overlooking the square or drive to a city or beach. To top it all off, Peppe is an incredible Chef with a farm to table concept that will make you appreciate seasonality.
- Tempo Hotels & Residences was a little place I stayed at in Turkey. I originally picked it due to its low price, after I realized I would need a place to sleep during my layover. Each floor of the hotel has a different theme ranging from nature to comic book super heroes. They humored me when I requested to change floors because I wanted to see the other themes. Their breakfast that is included with the rate is wonderful. It is exactly what locals eat, there are a lot of options for such a small place and you can start your day off very well fed. Their customer service is exceptional. Noticing I had not come out of my room during the afternoon, the front desk clerk rang to see if I wanted him to order me something from the place he was getting lunch from!
7) Your top 3 most memorable food / wine experiences to date and why?
- My colleague Peppe Zullo introduced me to Angelo from Pane e Salute. He is a baker with an oven from the year 1520 that he uses to bake bread for the town, because many of their homes are old and historic and not allowed to have modern ovens. He decided to unexpectedly make lunch and asked my travel companion and I to stay. I watched several elderly older Italian women stop by with pasta dishes and sweets to say thank you to Angelo for baking their bread that week. Lunch intended for 3 turned into a table for 5 when two travelers that had come all the way from Milan just to shake Angelo’s hand were also asked to join us. The meal was simple and homemade, but by far one of the best meals I have ever had! We feasted on uovo pomodoro, olive fritti and assorted sauteed vegetables, fresh wine and bread.
- I spent a short amount of time in San Francisco and fell in love with a restaurant by the name of Namu Gaji. I had read about the owners and the story behind the restaurant. I was very impressed. I dined there on my first night in town and was so captivated by the meal that I promised to return the next morning for brunch. I did just that and ended up staying all the way until dinner time. The staff allowed me to pester them with questions so I could write an article for my blog. I ate to my heart’s content and ended the night with a round of drinks courtesy of one of the owners. The restaurant has flawless dishes, a hardworking staff, a cohesive ambiance and just a very welcoming vibe that made me want to just put on a an apron and help out if only they would let me stay. I am a Namu Groupie.
- The Festa dei Frutti Dimenticati is a very obscure festival in Italy. It took two attempts, endless research and an unexpected travel companion for me to find it. Farmers in Casola Valsenio harvest fruits that date back hundreds of years and varieties of fruits that are hard to find anywhere else. Locals showcase their produce over a weekend of celebration. Stone streets, jazz quartets in the street, pop-up bistros, local artisans, culinary concoctions galore… It almost didn’t seem real. I cannot wait to visit the festival again.
8) Your 3 worst destination/ accommodation /food experiences to date and why?
- When I traveled to Abu Dhabi I took a commercial flight departing from New York. I had the worst seat buddy ever! He was a very rude man from India. He took other passenger’s luggage out of the overhead cabin and placed it in the aisle so he could put his bag where he wanted to. He was very rude to the stewardess and insulted the passengers sitting in the rows in front of me and behind me. He flossed his teeth while sitting next to me with the plastic package that holds the blanket and pillows. He fell asleep and put his feet under my seat. He talked to himself and complained very loudly while people were trying to sleep on the very long flight. The worst thing was that many people though I was with him in the beginning. I was so embarrassed!
- On one of my visits to Italy, a colleague went with me and we decided to rent a car and do a roadtrip. We were headed to Cinque Terre and got terribly lost. Our GPS kept telling us to get off of the highway, it sent us down a lot of dead end streets and sent us to the wrong town 5 times! We were lost for 5 hours which put us behind schedule and made us very frustrated. We later learned that whoever rented the car before us had programmed the GPS to avoid highways and that is why we couldn’t reach our destination!
- One time when I was traveling I had a layover in Miami. It was AWFUL. My layover was 15 hours long and they wouldn’t allow me to check into my connecting flight for another 7 hours! I was not allowed into the airport because I didn’t have my next plane ticket. I didn’t have money to stay overnight at a hotel. The Miami airport shuts all their stores and restaurants down at night. So there was nothing to do, nothing to eat, I had nowhere to stay. I found a section of nice recliner chairs and couches where a few other travelers were also resting. I decided to try to take a nap and just wait until I could check into my next flight. All the travelers that were in that area were tired and frustrated with not being able to get into the airport. However there was a security guard who would come by every 30 minutes and shout at all of us “Remember Ladies and Gentleman, this is not a hotel, you cannot sleep here!” So no one got any sleep and by the time I checked into my flight I was exhausted!
9) Can you offer the readers 3 destination/ food / accommodation / things to do tips about the city you are currently living in?
- I currently live on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. My favorite restaurant is Yaki Yaki Miwa. It is a Japanese restaurant specializing in Osaka style cuisine located on King Street. The staff is very friendly and the chef, Takumi is awesome! i usually talk to him using a translator on my phone because his first language is Japanese and although he speaks English, we have some difficulties sometimes. The food is great, my favorite dish is the Okonomiyaki! The prices are affordable, there is parking next to the building, the only thing to keep in mind is they are closed on Mondays.
- While you are on the island if you want to explore the outdoors I highly recommend the Makapuu lighthouse trail and tide pools. It has beautiful scenery, old military pillboxes, ancient tide pools, a blowhole and lighthouse landmark. You can choose to just hike and enjoy the terrain or you can even get into the water. If you are lucky you can sight whales at the right time of year..
- The other activity I think is a must is visiting the USS Arizona Memorial. A homage to many of those lost in the Pearl Harbor tragedy, it is a very humbling experience. It is free to visit the museum and walk around the Pearl Harbor historic site. Get there early if you go during the weekend or at least by lunch during the week. Approximately 2000 free tickets are handed out daily for a ferry that will take you across the water to the memorial built over the sunken USS Arizona.
10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?
Well to be honest, I never really know. I have a few things I would like to accomplish in the next couple years. I would love to collaborate with my colleagues in their places of business and do like a stage tour. I would also like to herd reindeer with the Saami natives that I have met at Salone del Gusto. I would also like the opportunity to learn more in the mixology and coffee related areas of my field. I am open to invitations to any new experiences! *hint hint
It was a pleasuree having you here Chandler, a lady with many talents. Thank you!