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Thomas Burke was recently appointed executive chef of Willow by Charlie Palmer at Mirbeau Inn & Spa Rhinebeck, a 50-room resort opening fall 2019.
1. What are you looking forward to the most in your new role?
In my new position as Executive Chef, I am looking forward to the opportunity to create a special destination in the Hudson Valley. It is important to me that we create a restaurant and kitchen culture that will inspire young cooks to want to come and work and get a “NYC” kitchen experience in the Hudson Valley. The Culinary Institute Of America is very close to the restaurant and I want this restaurant to be a first stop for graduates and students to work and to develop their skills and abilities.
2. How do you think past experiences have prepared you for this role?
My past experiences have prepared me for this role and have been leading up to this roll as Executive Chef. Every kitchen I worked in no matter the length of time, I have paid very close attention to the systems, culture, standards, equipment and of course, the quality of ingredients and techniques. I would say working under Chef Ben Freemole helped me grow and expand my expertise with budgets, scheduling and menu development. My experience working at The French Laundry really changed my approach in the kitchen, as far as structure, organization, discipline, professionalism, and giving the ingredients the utmost respect and care.
3. How did you get into the industry?
I got into the restaurant industry at a very early age. I was getting into some trouble in the neighborhood, so my father made me get at a job! At 14, I began washing dishes and bussing tables. I immediately was recognized in the restaurant for having a natural ability, and thrived under pressure. I never looked back and have continued to push myself to cook at the highest level. In a lot of ways, cooking saved my life.
4. What are you hoping to achieve in your new role?
In my new role, I am hoping to bring a new level of cuisine and hospitality to the Hudson Valley. I have no doubt we will be a “must go” restaurant for people visiting the area, as well as the CIA. Working with Chef Charlie Palmer gives me the utmost confidence of this.
5. What do you enjoy most about the industry?
What I enjoy most about the restaurant industry is that you never stop learning. I also enjoy the process of taking a dish from conception to reality. I have always enjoyed the rush of executing a busy night; nothing is more rewarding.