A Few Minutes With: Chef Tracy
Today’s review in our pages features one of the meals offered monthly at Hit The Road Joe in Croton. Being inquisitive kind of folks N3 wanted to learn a bit more about the creator of these events so we sat down with Chef Tracy Filipek-Murrell and posed a few questions.
N3- Do you have a regular crowd or do you draw a lot of first-timers?
Tracy- A little bit of both. We are always happy to see familiar faces come back time and time again, but even more exciting is seeing...
...the surprised faces of newcomers. We always get the comments of “I wish I knew about this sooner” or “we had no idea Croton offered anything like this”.
N3- How did these dinners get started?
Tracy-Originally we just wanted to offer an alternative as something different to do in the area, good fun, good entertainment and good food all local! After I started culinary school the focus evolved into more attention to the food and more elaborate cuisine. These dinners essentially became my canvas for my art! What a liberating way to develop my skills with total creative freedom!
With the popularity of the dinners also came validation of my new career choice. Dinners at Hit the Road Joe motivated me to be the best culinary student I could be! That is where my passion of food really took hold.
N3- Your crew?
Tracy- Steven Mathias Lehmkuhle is my sous chef and Jenna Faling, Kendra McKimmy, and Keeva Filipek and Melissa Lehmkuhle make up the rest of my staff. We are a great team and the dinners would not work without the teamwork of all of us.
N3-What are your career goals?
Tracy-I would like to offer more night time services out of the café whether it be 5-course dinners or even dinners to go. I love being able to offer a wide variety of ethnic cuisines in this rural area and cooking quality food for my community that has more cultural diversity .Striving for uniqueness has always been one of my trademarks! Someday I would love to incorporate a wood fired pizza oven into the mix. After all, who doesn’t love artisan pizza?
N3-Why this career? Why chefdom?
Tracy- I have had quite the assortment of jobs in my life. As a teen and thru college I always had kitchen jobs. After college I was a Commercial Diver and then a Heavy Equipment operator. I worked in this field for over a decade until I was hurt and forced out of the industry. At that time my soon to be husband and I opened a pizza shop in Grand Rapids called J Morello’s. This was my first taste of cooking on my own and creating my own recipes.
It was very exciting time. Shortly after that venture I decided to enroll in culinary school, the whole time thinking that I would just cherry pick certain classes that I liked with no intentions of completing the program.
What a humbling experience.
I was always a good cook, but had so much to learn and gain from the Secchia Institute of culinary arts! I fell in love! I couldn’t learn enough. My passion for the culinary world exploded and I excelled in every class and graduated with honors.
At this time it was made very clear to me that being a chef is my true calling in life. I enjoy all aspects of the job, creating menu’s, endless experimentation, the handling and selecting of the ingredients, the creative process, and my favorite, FEEDING THE PEOPLE!
I feel very blessed to be able to do what I love and love what I do!
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