I don’t know exactly when it started, but, in the late 90’s there emerged a huge popularity in food. It sounds pretty funny, but, there was a time where the term “foodie” and foodie culture didn’t exist. During those times I was just entering high school, and my family had just got the Dish network. While there were a few channels that I loved watching (MTV and MTV2 come to mind. Especially back when music was still shown on there. Grrrr!), there was this new channel that I had never heard of, called the Food Network, that really captivated me. Now, let me be perfectly clear. If you have read any of my past articles regarding food, then you would know that I am a self-avowed fatty. As a person that has loved to eat since I was in the womb, I was a foodie before foodies were even a thing. But, the thing that made the Food Network fun, was that for the first time I saw other people were as passionate about food as I was. Not only did chefs like Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse love and talk about food with a passion that only people only like myself could understand. At least, that’s what I thought most of the time. Of course my brother’s and sisters were just as glued to the boob tube as much as I was. For me, it was the beginning of a new chapter of my food jourey. It was the first time that I had ever heard of many of the foods and locales that were shown daily on the channel, and for the first time, I actually got a glimpse into the world of chefs. Yeah, it sounds silly now, but, before this channel, my only peek into that world was watching chefs like Julia Child and Martin Yan (from Yan Can Cook fame) create the most amazing looking dishes. It was awesome, and not until then did I really immerse myself into that world.
Fast forward nearly twenty years later, and while the Food Network is still around, food and “foodie” culture has embedded itself deep into our hearts and minds. Food is in on everyone’s minds all of the time and everywhere. It doesn’t matter whether or not it is on television anymore either. At any given moment food is all over the internet and social media. I personally may be responsible for sharing photos of some of my latest food lustings on our Spektrum Instagram page. I mean, if there’s anything that gets me and our fans going, it’s a photo of a tasty dish. But, for all of the delicious looking photos, stories and recipes that flood media there is something that tends to get overlooked. Or, at least it used to. You see, back when I first started watching chefs on tv the only thing I new about them was the little that they would mention about themselves as they cook. From time to time we would hear about their background and their cooking experience, but, while we had glimpses of their story here and there, it was never there to overshadow the food. That changed when the Food Network came along. For the first time (at least in my lifetime), we got to see chefs not only cook, but, get to know them a lot more. Their personalities and talents were on full display, and for the first time, people that were more interested in eating were now just as interested in learning about the people behind their favorite recipes. This, as far as I am concerned, changed the way I looked at food forever.
It’s funny how often many of us will go out to eat and not consider all of the work that went in to preparing their favorite dish. Behind the doors of any kitchen is a world that many of us didn’t really know about. While I am sure many of us have cooked at home and know what that’s like, to think that it’s anything like what happens behind the walls of a busy kitchen is nothing of the sort. At my first job (ever) I worked as a server at a restaurant. It was my first time witnessing the chaos and the craziness that goes on inside of the kitchen and on the serving room floor. I never would have imagined though, that my short stint there was really nothing compared to what the chefs in the back were really going through. The amount of things that they have to keep track of and food they have to track is incredible. Not only do they have to pay attention to the orders coming in, and the orders, but, they have to cook all the food properly and get it out within a reasonable amount of time. It’s definitely easier said than done, and if you’ve ever been witness to anything like it, then you definitely know what I’m talking about. But, how would you know what it’s like if you had never worked at a restaurant? Well, in the late 90’s when food and anything related to the restaurant business grew we got a great look at the people behind the scenes and finally got to hear their stories.
One such chef that I have come to know recently is no stranger to the business. He started out in the restaurant business very early on and since then has not only grown into a professional chef, but, to owning and operating a catering business. So, while it’s tough enough for me to cook myself some dinner, imagine doing that for a hundred people or more. It’s pretty intense, and something I definitely wanted to learn more about. I’ve only known one person that was involved in catering, and while they did not own that business, I had always wondered what it was like. Thankfully, I had a chance to talk to someone that is not only co-owner of a catering business, but, has come from a long line of ventures within the food industry. Chef Elias is someone that I knew very little about before our conversation, but, couldn’t have been happier to know afterwards. Chef Elias is just the person that someone like myself has been waiting to talk to. Someone with a story that is full of twists and turns and lots of surprises. I’ve always believed that the story behind the story is more interesting than what you see on the surface.
In order to understand where someone is at, one has to take a look at where they came from. The life and experiences that someone goes through definitely shapes a person and defines (in many ways) the decision processes that will lead them in their life. Sure, this is may be an overstatement, but, I think in this case, when you are in, you’re all in. For folks such as myself, it took me a minute to figure out where I felt I wanted to plant my roots. And while it’s a work in progress, I feel as though the multitude of jobs and Thus began the life of Chef Elias. He started his run in the restaurant/food industry at a young age. It was during those teenage years in Long Island (NY) that Wayne (Elias) was looking for a job where he would settle on working at a restaurant. This may sound a little inconspicuous, however, it was this decision to move into this field that would kick off a lifelong career in the food industry. It was at that first job that Wayne jumped right in and never looked back.
I never really knew until I myself worked at a restaurant just how hardcore it is. I mean, any given day could be any number of issues and stressors coming right at you. I was 17 at the time and could barely handle the full work load that was coming my way. Some people though, don’t have that type of luxury, and get thrust into whatever situation comes their way. Wayne had just that at that first restaurant job. He was only 18, but, during his tenure there, he was given added roles and responsibilities that were beyond others his age. I always think that if a person that is young that rises through the ranks quickly is surely doing so because of their tenacity and ability to handle responsibility. That was definitely the case here, and that first foray in the restaurant biz was just the beginning. Having left Long Island for another gig in Florida, and several other food managing ventures, Wayne was ready for one of the goals of anyone in the biz. Yes, that was to be lead chef and eventually owner of a restaurant.
I can’t tell you just how difficult this proposition is, and how much work it takes to get to this point. But, I am sure that anyone reading this probably has, or is working at a place where you may have a supervisor that definitely doesn’t belong in that position. This fortunately isn’t the case here, and it was pretty obvious that anyone willing to take on any mantle thrown their way and ready to take on an ownership role is a certified bad ass. Especially given the fact that years after his endeavor started he is still here, making things happen. One look at the picture of Chef Elias with business partner Chris Diamond and Elton John should tell you just how far he’s come. That is just one more feather in the cap of achievements that Chef Elias has unlocked over the years. It starts though, with learning the basics (which he did), going to cooking school (which he went to) and working with some very talented business-mind people (which he still does). It sounds easier said than done, but, when you love what you do, then you’ll learn what it takes to master it. And that leads us into Chef Wayne’s current venture, catering.
It’s hard to run a kitchen. As a head chef (or any chef for that matter), one has to juggle orders, constant line chatter, properly cooking and plating food and managing time. This is hard enough to do for even the smallest of kitchens, but, upscale this to catering, and you have an even bigger amount of problems. This is the challenge that Chef Elias decided to take on. Catering for events both large and small and over a variety of types, Chef Elias and his company, Crumble Catering have been taking on those events and will continue to do so. This is exciting considering that any event that one takes part in is a new challenge. This does pose a number of problems, but, a lot of this is easily remedied with a great team. Having a team that is not only qualified, but able to thrive in a fast paced environment such as the catering world is paramount to a team’s success. And this I believe, is what is truly the remarkable thing about Chef Elias.
I think, in a lot of ways, a success of a person isn’t so much about their individual achievements, but rather, it is about the legacy you leave for the next generation. Over the years Chef Elias has not only cemented his place in the restaurant industry with the things he has accomplished, but, he has gone on to teach a new generation of chefs and staff how to succeed and that could one day, very much follow in his footsteps. I think it’s pretty awesome, and can’t wait to see what new things Chef Elias will take on. If it’s anything remotely close to what he has done in the past, we are in for a real treat. Not bad for a kid that started from the bottom and is continuing to make things happen for not only himself, but for others. Maybe next time you’re eating a delicious steak at an event, you’ll think about the love and care that was put into making that for you. The story of that meal may just be more fantastic than you think.
Words By Daniel Navarrete,
Photo Credit to the respective photographers
For more information on the Chef Elias and Crumble Catering, please make sure to check out his website at Crumble CateringWrite caption…
This article was prepared or accomplished by Daniel Navarrete in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Spektrum Magazine, or its affiliates.
I just wanted to thank Chef Wayne Elias for taking the time to chat and understand his story a lot better. I enjoyed it and hope that you too can get to know him, Chris (Diamond) and the Crumble Catering Company. Check out the links below on how to reach out to them.