An all-around-trained chef, Garrett Kirsch, Head Chef for the Kappa Delta chapter at the University of Oregon, has a wide variety of techniques to make impressive cuisines. From working in mom and pop shops to cooking for one hundred girls at a sorority, Chef Kirsch is a key aspect to College Chefs’ successful team.
Beginning a Career
At the early age of 18, Garrett quickly knew he wanted to work with food. It all started at Pegasus Pizza. An Italian type restaurant, they smoked all their meats in-house. “It was just your get out of high school job,” he says. But it was the exact opposite, in fact. It was just the beginning of a career for Garrett. He managed the pizza place for four years, when he went on to work at another pizza place called Track Town Pizza. He managed Track Town Pizza for three years. It was time for Garrett to make some decisions on pursuing his passion. “I figured if I wanted to make it big, I would go into culinary school,” he says. Going into cooking, Garrett knew there was not a ton of money to be made, but that did not matter to him. According to Garrett, if you love what you do, money isn’t a big factor. All that mattered to Garrett was cooking. “I am very passionate about food,” he says, “I stand behind my food and I’m proud of it.”
Garrett attended Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon. He graduated in two years with a degree in culinary and hospitality management. His studies prepared him for all different kinds of cuisines, not a specific type. They trained him on everything, which would benefit him with his future careers. Wanting to open up his own restaurant one day, Garrett got an apprenticeship with Chef Randy Hollister. During his apprenticeship, he got to see how things were done. Garrett wanted to focus more on mom and pop places, he explained. They would help him get the experience he needed to open up his own place. Garrett went on to do just that.
He assisted with a company to open South-Side Grill and he also helped open two wine bars and cafes called B Squared. One wine bar is in Eugene, Oregon and the other in Portland, Oregon. Garrett was an executive chef at those restaurants and worked there for five years. After working for his wine bars and cafes, he went to an Italian restaurant located in Fish Street Market. He cooked at Baker Butcher for awhile until College Chefs found him. Being a family man, working for College Chefs was a great opportunity for Garrett. He would be able to get off at five, so the hours were beneficial. “You do not find those kinds of hours in the restaurant business,” he says.
Keeping it Fresh
Besides the hours, Garrett recognized that College Chefs is a young company and there’s potential to grow with them. The people he works with are another added bonus. “I like the professionalism that they stand for,” he says. He mentions that every single person that he has talked to is very approachable--another aspect you do not find often in the industry. As a head chef at Kappa Delta, Garrett keeps his menus fresh and he enjoys the variety. “One day I may be cooking a Mexican dish, the next might be Italian and then maybe some Southern food,” he says. One of his favored dishes are his chicken Caesar wraps. “The girls enjoy home-style food that reminds them of home,” he says. When talking with Garrett, he was especially excited about his last day on campus. Not because his summer vacation was only hours away, but he got to get even more creative with his menu. Since there were not that many people, he was able to use all the food he had in the house and make several different cuisines. Garrett was able to cook outside of the box with about six different meals.
A Little Family Flare
When cooking Garrett has some family influences. He remembers always cooking with his grandmother and she taught him to make a Bolonaise sauce. Garrett also remembers his mother sharing her bruschetta recipe with him. He even puts it on his menus today. Although passionate about cooking, Garrett also enjoys the outdoors. When he is not cooking you can almost always find him outside. His favorite thing to do outside is fish.
From One Chef to Another
It is evident that as a previous executive chef and now a head chef, Garrett has his share of experiences. As for aspiring chefs, Garrett suggests making sure you love the business a lot. With a lot of assumptions on the cooking industry, it is a lot harder than it looks, suggests Garrett. “You are sweating, your prepping, your washing dishes, cleaning floors--you are really doing everything,” he says. It is a lot of hard work and Garrett recommends making sure it’s what you love to do.
By Ashley Skoczylas