Hannah Radford – Executive Chef – Food and Beverage Director
Adventures on the Gorge: What’s your first memory of your love for cooking?
Hannah Radford: I was always in the kitchen from the time I was a toddler trying to help my momma or grandma cook. Both my mom and grandma made wedding cakes so I was always trying to learn from the first thoughts I can recall.
AOTG: When did you know you wanted to be a Chef?
Radford: When I opened my own catering business at the age of 18, I was doing this job as a means of putting me through veterinarian school, of which was another passion I had. Through the insanity of dealing with caterings every weekend, bridezillas and anything else unexpected, I realized I loved the madness of the kitchen more than performing surgeries and birthing babies, so I switched professions.
AOTG: Where were you trained, and how difficult was your training?
Radford: Training was at Mountain State University technically but the best training I ever received has been through my hands on experiences and lessons learned from day-to-day interactions and obstacles.
A quote I live by stated from Anthony Bourdain, who said “You can always tell when a person has worked in a restaurant. There’s an empathy that can only be cultivated by those who’ve stood between a hungry mouth and a $28 pork chop, a special understanding of the way a bunch of motley misfits can be a family. Service industry work develops the “soft skills” recruiters talk about on LinkedIn-discipline, promptness, the ability to absorb criticism and most important, how to read people like a book. The work in thankless and fun and messy, and the world would be a kinder place if more people tried it. With all due respect to my former professors, I’ve long believed I gained more knowledge in kitchens, bars and dining rooms than any college could even hold.”
AOTG: What do you love most about your job?
Radford: The eclectic kitchen life all wrapped up into a whole. The kitchen is the heart of any restaurant, yet it’s made up of dreamers, second chances, non-goal-oriented individuals, and the list goes on – but we all are family. We are with one another more than our actual families and the weirdness of the conversations keep us all alive. Whether front of house or back of house, the kitchen is always where everyone comes to unload, scream, laugh and/or cry together. As we console one another, its amongst the aromas, smoke, fires and burn scars that we find a way to relax in knowing that even though the insanity that happens on the back side presents happily fed customers just on the other side of those swinging doors.
AOTG: Describe your style in three words.
Radford: Ambitious, bold and vivacious.
AOTG: What’s your favorite dish to create?
Radford: We as chefs are asked that constantly and there is no direct answer for me, as there are so many layers to each item we create. However, making pastas from scratch is what I do to relax and unwind. Follow that with a farm-to-table Bolognese sauce from freshly butchered beef and pork with a plethora of vegetables from the garden. The magic then begins and can become so many dishes derived of some things I love to make. That and baking – anything baking is a passion that I can do daily and love every aspect of it .
AOTG: Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?
Radford: My grandmother. She passed away almost three years ago, and I was blessed to have many wonderful years with her learning so many techniques of the kitchen. She inspired me to start my catering business and I am so passionate about having those fond experiences with her. My momma also did catering and always was baking, so between those two they are where I am in my career today. I’ve always been very artistic so combine the level of inspirations that I have been given in life and pair that with my artistic side and for me, the sky is the limit. I’m always pushing myself to try new things on the culinary spectrum.
AOTG: What four ingredients are necessary in your kitchen?
Radford: Empathy, passion, commitment and creativity. Ingredients make up the dishes, chefs create them. Without the above ingredients in your culinary team, dishes will not turn out properly, so I always try to embed these traits in my team. I’ve trained staff that did not possess these traits at first, but they can be acquired skills and they are crucial for success.
AOTG: What are you most proud of in your career?
Radford: Constantly trying to improve and build strong core teams. It takes an army and without having everyone pulling together its almost impossible. I’ve been honored to travel a lot of the country building and developing teams and it has helped to mold me into be a better team leader.
AOTG: Who is your biggest supporter?
Radford: My son. If no one is proud, he sure is. He is always telling everyone that his mommy is the best chef in the world and says that one day he will be a chef for me, so I don’t have to work but instead stay home and play with him every day.
AOTG: What would you want to have as your last meal?
Radford: A meal that didn’t consist of scarfing down a scrap of food while standing over a trash can in the kitchen. Kitchen life can be grueling, and eating isn’t on the top of the list while working on mise en place, working the line, or finally sitting down at the end of a shift. Half the time you don’t even realize that you’ve went an entire 14-hour shift with no food or water so to sit down at a table and have a full course meal is a privilege to us.
AOTG: Are there any foods you just don’t like?
Radford: Yellow mustard – its revolting.
AOTG: Do you do the cooking at home?
Radford: Adam my son and I always cook together when I am home.
AOTG: Funniest kitchen incident?
Radford: When I was doing one of the national boy scout jamborees, of which consisted of 30,000+ participants, I had a middle eastern lady came into the kitchen and approached one of my staff and simply said halal, (of which is the form of protein she was needing). He confusingly looked at her and said hello. She said nooo, halal. He looks more confused and then waves to her and smiles and says HELLO! As I’m trying to not die laughing, I intervened and rescued him and provided her with the necessities.
AOTG: Favorite kitchen equipment or gadget?
Radford: Tongs, not for usage but the stressful clicking factor that all kitchen staff knows all too well.