“For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.” -Rudyard Kipling
Steven Longe, a.ka. “John Steven” or “Stevie Ray” in our kitchen is a behind the scenes player that is making it happen every day. As the Executive Chef, I can honestly say that this man is truly one of the unsung heroes on our culinary team. A truly unique and hardworking individual, who brings much more to the table than just his position of Lead Cook every day, he brings his heart. Let me embellish on that a bit.
A native of Plattsburgh, New York, which is just about as close as you can get to the Canadian Border, Steve comes from a true restaurant background. Actually he started out at sixteen years old as a dishwasher in his fathers Italian restaurant-The Orange Julep. Eventually he moved on, and ventured across Lake Champlain, where he laid down roots in the city of Burlington, Vermont. It was here, that Steve started to really sharpen his kitchen skills, as he spent ten years at the famous Sweetwaters American Bistro, which is one of the most famed dining establishments in all of Burlington. After a decade in the kitchen, Steve was able to change courses, as he opened his own record store, and was able to be completely surrounded by something he is extremely passionate about, music. After seven years at his store, an amazing opportunity came about, and he was able to tie both worlds together, as he accepted a position on the catering team with St. Pierre’s Catering in Vermont. It was with this catering company that he traveled up and down the east coast, catering for famous musicians on a nightly basis. Steve was onstage, backstage, and on the tour buses of many stars, cooking daily meals for musicians such as B.B. King, Black Sabbath, Jackson Browne, Ringo Star, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Donny Osmond, and Phish (Just to name a few!)
Eventually, Steve’s catering experience led him to Raleigh. While in Raleigh, he continued to use his private catering expertise where and spent about three years on the team at Mitchell’s Catering, before becoming fascinated at what we were doing with hospital food at Rex.
While with us for the past 4 1/2 years, he has not only been cooking, but he frequently has the opportunity to showcase his passion for baking. I always love to say that he has personally made some of the best scones I have ever tasted (and I lived in Ireland!) I wouldn’t say that he’s obsessed with baking and breads, but he’s pretty close. If we need somebody to bake fresh muffins, sourdough bread, or pizza dough, he is our guy. As a matter in fact, just about everyday you can see him make our pizza dough from scratch, and forming it out into plush little pillows. When Steve is doing it, it looks like art.
Steve is also involved in any conversation that involves music in our kitchen as well, especially the classics. Chances are that if you mention a musician, Steve has seen them play live…multiple times. But whatever show he see’s, one thing is for sure, you can count on him to be at work the next morning at 5:00am, and ready to do it all over again. On weekends, Steve breaks out his boombox, as he loves to listen to music while working in the kitchen.
In addition to music, Steve is our Black Hat Chef garden ambassador. It is because of him, our garden has gotten bigger and better every year. John will even come in on his personal time to make sure that his culinary garden is looking good. Just this past year, he organized a program with other co-workers outside of the kitchen who wanted to be involved with managing the daily needs of the garden. While most chefs bring knives to work, Steve is frequently seen coming in and our kitchen with a rake, work gloves, plants, mulch, and various other garden tools.
In addition to all that I’ve already mentioned, Steve is extremely passionate about keeping things clean, neat & organized. I can confidently say that I’ve never worked in a kitchen before with somebody that is so proud to keep the kitchen, and work areas safe and clean. I commend him, and thank him for this. When he is on vacation, his presence is extremely missed. And that’s the truth.