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December 2016 Chef of the Month Rod Knight

chef-rod-jump-with-hat2Can you believe 2016 is coming to a close already? We are extremely excited to showcase our last Chef of the Month for the year: Chef Rod Knight!

We guarantee this is one Chef of the Month you don’t want to miss! Chef Rod went above and beyond and his step-by-step recipes are incredible. Read more about his life and chef career below and make sure to check back next week for his first recipe!

1. Birthplace: Danbury, Connecticut

2. Where do you work and where are you based?

I work at a French brasserie called Thursdays on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

3. What is your favorite kitchen tool in creating your masterpieces/dishes?

My favorite kitchen tool is the vacuum chamber machine. It allows me to literally marinate or pickle something within seconds. It significantly cuts down a lot of time and the amount of waste. Plus, once you vacuum an item it increases the shelf life exponentially.

4. What is your sharpest sense out of all the 5 senses?

Interesting, I think that my sense of touch is my sharpest sense. I have never cut myself more than a nick and I think that has to do with my sense of touch.

5. What advice would you offer for aspiring chefs?

I would say stay curious and focus intently on the details. Good dishes are a combination of very small parts that are put together well. Make sure you are aware of how you communicate. How you communicate is a very important part of being a chef because how you speak and what you say translates to everyone you work with and it will literally better the team.

6. What is one culinary tip every chef should know and perfect?

Keep your pans hot. You aren’t going to get far without hot pans.

7. What does good food mean to you?

Good food to me is something that is exciting to share with others. It also takes into account health and nutrition. I believe you can’t untwine the two. What we are eating and how we are eating but it has to be good for you. Also, good food is fresh with fresh ingredients. I guess to sum it up good food is passion on a plate.

8. What trends do you see emerging in the near future?

There’s been a lot of talk about no tipping. All of the servers’ wages and all of the food prices would get raised to cover the no tipping paradigm. Personally, I think if companies do raise the minimum wage, they will expect more from the employees.

I see a lot more with digital cloud services for cooks training and communication. I think we are going to see a breakdown of titles and positions and see more of the cooks and prep cooks taking on more responsibility which would allow the chefs on duty to administer more effectively. With everything online we are learning faster and quicker and the guys on my team who are in school ask me questions that stump me all the time. On a broader level, this will lead to a lot more creativity to make the things.

9. What features are important to you when selecting a Chef Coat? (particular fabric, style, sleeve length, pockets)

I definitely go with a short sleeve. I like to go with styles that breathe easy. I do like a more traditional style but with a modern fresh approach. I am slim, so I prefer a slimmer fit. I don’t like button ups. The coats I have now have material like Nike dry fit that wicks away moisture and are light weight.

10. What is your go-to chef outfit? Do you prefer coats, tees, pants, shorts, aprons, hats, etc?

For my go-to workwear, I usually wear a cargo style black pant. I typically wear one of my white chef coats. Sometimes I will wear a cap but I always wear crocs.

11. Favorite ingredient to work with?

This is hard, my favorite ingredient I like to work with is Dijon mustard.  I specifically like to pair it with maple, mustard, and Cajun to make a really good marinade that is a little spicy. For a quick fix, I like to have pan seared salmon and splatter mustard on there and bread crumbs. Or red wine vinaigrette adding Dijon. I find it to be a very versatile condiment. But of course, you can’t live without eggs.

12. Best Dish you have ever made?

Okay, so this is fun. I came across this recipe maybe a year ago. I came across a website that had Berbere, an Ethiopian spice. Last year I really got into spices. This one is really cool, so I tried it out. It is smoky, spicy and red in color. It is extensive work to toast it and to process it. It has a very eastern flavor, I guess they have been using it for centuries. So I went to the fish market and got Bronzino. I was having some people over for dinner so I did a dry rub and got a really nice roast on the fish, it was almost magical. I served it with lemon roasted tomatoes. It was very exotic, with Chile peppers, garlic, ginger, basil, and a little bit of nutmeg.

13. Place you eat most often on your days off?

There is a sushi place in Pompano Beach. It is called 9 Face Sushi and they knock it out of the ballpark. Always fresh, the service is amazing. I like to sit outside and enjoy the view.

14. Person you would most like to cook for?

You know what, I’d like to cook for Stan Lee.

15. What made you decide to become a chef?

I am an only child. My mom is a chemical engineer. I would get out of school and go home. I would watch 3 shows on Food Network. These shows got me into and gave me permission to get my hands dirty. I would have food made, I can’t imagine it was good at the time. So I started doing things in elementary school.

But I applied and got into a Connecticut vocational technical school in the culinary department when I was in high school. I started learning techniques. My junior year, Johnson and Wales got accreditation and I got an associate’s degree in culinary. It took burning a lot of things and figuring out where I went wrong and teaching it to the next person. To sum it up, I became a chef because of curiosity and a lot of it has to do with the fact that I am creative. Being a chef, I found a happy place to be and express my creativity every day.

16. What is new on your DVR?

On my DVR is Preacher, The Walking Dead, and The Flash. Those are my top three shows that I make time to watch.

Once again thank you to Chef Rod Knight and don’t forget to stay tuned for his recipes that will be featured throughout the month.


Interview with Chef Claudette Thurmond

Below is our contest winner, Claudette Thurmond’s entry on why she thought she deserved to win, followed by her interview. By winning this contest, she won a check for $500 from ChefUniforms.com. The three runners up, Jose Luis Usquiano, Amanda Hartigan, and Aimee Bacon all gained over 600 votes during the contest voting period. Though they did not reach the 1,000 vote mark, ChefUniforms.com decided they wanted to still give these contestants a prize, so they were each sent a $100 ChefUniforms.com gift card! Read on to find out a little more about our winner:

Claudette Thurmond

1247 Votes

Why I deserve to win Cash for the Holidays:

My name is Claudette, and in September of 2011, I opened my Custom Cake Business. On top of my regular clientele, I take advantage of every opportunity to donate cakes to my church, True Life Church in Universal City, TX. I also am a volunteer for Birthday Cakes 4 Free, San Antonio Chapter. They are a non-profit organization that reaches out to professional bakers to provide birthday cakes to children who, due to no fault of their own, would not normally receive a birthday cake. Most recently, I donated over $500 in baked goods to Austin Bakes for Bastrop. On October 1, 2011, this organization held one of the largest bake sales I personally had ever seen and raised over $12,000. The proceeds of this bake sale then went to The Austin Community Foundation Central Texas Wildfire Fund. I constantly use profits from my cake orders to buy supplies for my donated cakes. With the holidays coming up, I anticipate the need for my donations will be increased and the $500.00 would be a greater help than you could imagine. I have been blessed with a talent that I have never taken a class for. I am also blessed with the want to serve and bless others. Winning this contest would provide me with the means to make an even greater impact on the community as every penny would be used to provide the less fortunate with an unexpected treat. And Chef Uniforms, you could be the BIGGEST part of this, by selecting me as the winner. Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

The Interview

1.       How does it feel to win Cash for the Holidays?

It feels so amazing, especially when I think about how many families I will be able to touch during the holidays!

2.       How did you go about getting all of your votes? What did you do that helped the most (Facebook, Emails, etc)?

I work part time at a bank, where I shared my entry page with co workers as they shared with their co workers too. My husband is active duty Air Force currently deployed, and he shared with his co workers, friends and family to vote for me. And I shared the link to the contest in my Claudette’s Creations Facebook page and enticed people to vote and share. I made a little contest of my own by creating a raffle to win a gift certificate to Claudette’s Creations by voting and sharing. I would raffle it off when I hit a certain number of votes.

3.       Why did you want to become a chef?

It was never planned. I made my sister’s wedding cake; it came out nice and figured, hey, I can do this. I love the gift God has given me.

4.       What fabric and style of uniform do you enjoy wearing most?

I love the double button up baker’s coat. Short sleeved especially, because it gets so hot in Texas.

5.       Do you enjoy dining out in your free time?

I love to dine out. That is one of my favorite past times I share with my best friend. Great food, great company, great conversations…

6.       Do you see any changes in food trends?

I see a lot more health conscious options offered.

7.       What are your future plans for your business?

I currently operate out if my home, however, I plan to one day have a store front for my cake shop, sell cake supplies, and teach cake decorating classes.

8.       Is there any one thing you would have done differently in starting your culinary career?

I would have to say no, things have gone pretty smoothly.

Congratulations again, Claudette, and thanks again to all who participated in our contest!

Culinary Professional Winner: Kimber Hoang

Kimber Hoang

Magenta Restaurant


867 Votes

Kimber is one of two winners of our ChefUniforms.com contest. Below you can find her contest entry essay, the recipe she submitted, and our interview Q&A. Bon Appétit!


Why I deserve to go to the NRA:

Hello! I’m very happy to say I will be celebrating my 13th year anniversary of my restaurant, Magenta, this June 18. Without any former culinary education, or much in my pocket to start with, I have created my high end fusion restaurant in a very small town of Corvallis, Oregon. Food is my passion and is an art to me, and is due to eating very well at home. I had to do what I had to do to build my little dream. Never have built a wall nor done any dry wall stuff before, I have figured a way to make my little tiny restaurant in a mall across from OSU campus looked “as if they were sitting in Paris”, as many of our customers have said. Nine years later, I was fortunate enough to have found a building in downtown of Corvallis of my very own. It is now quite the “amazing building”, and most from my own sweat and time. And, this last August, I just made a purchase of another building downtown. I am creative and very original. I don’t like to copy other’s recipes, as I think it is more fun to create my own and i can have another excuse to pat myself on the back :). Since Magenta restaurant opened, I have made it to several front pages of the newspapers, sunset magazine, opened several more other restaurants in town. I am known in town as the sauce gal! I am all about sauce! Flavor is a huge thing for me. It can look pretty, but if it doesn’t taste flavorful, it isn’t going to do it for me. I also hold my very own courses on cooking, “Feel the Flavors”. This teaches people to use all of their senses while cooking, and using the last is their tongue, and only if they have to.
Now, I ask myself this question too, “Why do I deserve to go to the NRA?” My whole heart and soul is in the restaurant industry, I have so much more to tell as I am very proud of all the things I have created and done in the past 13 years. You will have a person you can share and be proud of going to the NRA!

My Recipe:

Chilean Sea Bass & Sautéed Pork in a Hot Dried Pan:

1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 teaspoon of chopped garlic
1/4 cup of chopped green onions
stir around to get the garlic cooking
add 2 cups ground pork (doesn’t matter if it’s lean or fatty, you’ll just have more fat to dispose)
3 tsp of 3crab brand fish sauce (or any brand, just balance with sugar as the more expensive brands have more sugar content)
1/4 cup chopped mushrooms (any kind, they are all good!)
1/8 cup chopped carrots
1/2 tsp vegetarian base
2 tbsp diced fresh basil
1 tbsp of chopped kaffir lime leaves, or lemongrass if it’s easier to find.
1/4 tsp white pepper or black pepper if you don’t have white.

Cook until pork is greyish in color (doesn’t sound pretty but it’s the color you are looking for.
Now, butterfly your big chunk of Chilean Sea Bass, if you can’t find this bass, any other fatty and flaky fish is fine. When using a thin fish, you will not have to butterfly.
Sprinkle fish with 1 tsp of fish sauce, lightly rub into fish.
Pour pork mixture over one end of the bass, then roll over to the end to form a log.
Wrap banana leaves all over the bass log and cover as much as you can, tying using strips of the leaves.
Bake at 375
Buy a piece of fresh fish so you can have it a little rare!
10 minutes after oven has reached its temperature
Finish with white wine and cream in pan for a quick glaze


The Interview:

1.       How does it feel to win an all-expense paid trip to the 2011 NRA Show?

Very thankful to all my great friends and big fans from of Corvallis and the surrounding cities.

2.       What do you plan on getting out of your trip to the NRA?

Learn about new tools in all aspects towards a perfect restaurant.  (I’m opening another restaurant, yet in a very small space and with an entry of an alley.  I will need to fit everything effectively yet keeping comfortable space)

3.       How did you go about getting all of those votes? What did you do that helped the most (Facebook, Emails, etc)?

Email addresses from customers on file, requesting customers to leave their email addresses in our log book for this competition, Yes Facebook & texting all of my friends with a smartphone.

4.       Why did you want to become a chef?

I truly love eating well!  I enjoy seeing friends enjoying their food!  Yet, becoming a chef was never a lengthy planned deal.  I can tell you the whole story when I talk to you…

5.       What fabric and style of uniform do you enjoy wearing most?

Women fit most definitely!  And cotton, with some blends OK.  We’ve been told, many times, we are very stylish in the kitchen!  Thanks to you guys!

6.       Do you enjoy dining out in your free time?

Any moment I can as it is very much my true passion!  I don’t mind spending hundreds of dollars when it comes to eating well…and I only drink well!

7.       Do you ever get menu ideas from your competitors?

Of course!  I have to see what others are doing in the very near areas so I know NOT to do the same thing as they!  And if I find that once my style or recipe is being used by someone else around, I will immediately change it!  I get ideas on using products, I will be the person creating the rest!

8.       Do you see any changes in food trends?

No, for at least the last 13 years!  It has been modern with a touch of history for this long.  However, the “organic” and “local” thing… is now more prominent!  And of course mending style for allergies that didn’t surface until this decade!

9.       Is there any one thing you would have done differently in starting your culinary career?

Yes, silly thing such as purchasing a business and basically demolished it, using it only for its space!  Yet, I learned a lot too from having no money left, I had to do most things myself, such as building walls!   Cooking related, I enjoyed every moment and wouldn’t know of a better way!

10.   What advice would you give to someone who wants to go into the culinary field?

Organization, know your tools, be the creator, feel from your very own senses.  Get ideas yet Do Not copy others!  Oh, you really can’t be in this field unless you are speedy!

Congratulations again, Kimber, and remember to come see us at the show at Booth #1904!

Culinary Student Winner: Peter S. Del Cotto

Peter S. Del Cotto

Trocaire College Russell J. Salvatore School of Hospitality and Business


383 Votes

Peter is the first of two winners of our ChefUniforms.com contest. Below you can find his contest entry essay, the recipe he submitted, and our interview Q&A. Bon Appétit!

Why I deserve to go to the NRA: 

I deserve to go to the NRA show because I want to improve my skills and serve my community by opening a restaurant in my home town. The NRA show will not only broaden my knowledge base but make me a better person, chef and family man. I have traveled all over the world serving our country and want to give back to those who supported me throughout my life such as the local community, parents, family, friends, fellow colleagues, and certainly not least, my professors. I am currently studying for my degree in Hospitality Management and have a 4.0 GPA. Unfortunately, I am also a victim of corporate downsizing and unemployed. Due to the lifestyle change, the decision was made to totally retrain into a different industry and go into business for myself and my family. The trip to the NRA show allows me to get immersed into the industry and get a restaurant and culinary world view, Not to mention meet the great people of the industry! Please consider my essay for the culinary student award. My family and I would be forever grateful to Chef Uniforms.com and the NRA. As an added bonus, I am submitting a picture of me in one of your handsome embroidered chefs coats while I’m in action in our kitchen at home.
Best regards.
Peter S. Del Cotto

My Recipe:

Simple Marinara Sauce:

2 #10 (6lb) cans of Hunts Tomato Sauce
2 6 oz Hunts Tomato Paste
1 Large Yellow Onion or Sweet Onion Small Dice
6 Large Cloves Garlic (Minced)
1 Tbsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper                             
2 Tbsp Salt, then salt to taste
2 Tbsp Italian Seasoning or equivalent amounts of basil, thyme, dried parsley and oregano
3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
5 Fresh Basil Leaves (tear into fine pieces)
1/4 Cup Grated Parm/Regg Cheese

Cooking Directions:

In large sauce or stock pot over med heat:
Add olive oil and once heated, add onions and salt, sweat onions for 8 minutes stirring occasionally then add garlic, dried spices and sweat for another two minutes.
When finished, lower heat to med low and add tomato paste, stir frequently until spices and onions are incorporated into the tomato paste. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Then add tomato sauce and stir to incorporate ingredients.
Add Fresh Basil.
Bring sauce to a simmer slowly, stir occasionally.
Let cook 15 min at reduced heat med low to low
Add cheese and cook an additional 5 minutes.
Note: Please make sure that the heat is not too high or you will ‘scorch’ the sauce. An evil that every Grandma tells you to avoid! However, if it does scorch, do not scrape it off of the bottom of the pan, transfer the remainder of the sauce to another pan/pot and stir on! Leave the scorched pan to soak and have the kids attack it when done with dinner… 🙂

The Interview:

1.        How does it feel to win an all-expense paid trip to the 2011 NRA Show?

Well, I have to admit, pretty darn good! When I received the notification that I won, I was elated beyond belief, I couldn’t wait to post the good news to my family and friends. In addition, to have an all-expense paid trip is a dream of a lifetime that became a reality.

2.        What do you plan on getting out of your trip to the NRA?

After graduating, I am opening my own restaurant. The NRA show has every exhibitor in the industry available to meet with and consult. I am sure I will walk out of the NRA show a well-educated man on the restaurant biz. In addition, I hope to network with other leaders in the industry and utilize their experiences to mold my restaurant.

3.        How did you go about getting all of those votes? What did you do that helped the most (Facebook, Emails, etc.)?

                As part of my degree program, students must take a sales and marketing course. Last semester, we covered the impacts of social media and their use in the hospitality industry. Come to find out, the impacts were huge and through their use, saved many restaurants during the economic downturn. When the contest started, I fired up my laptop and started an event on my Facebook page. I individually messaged the event to my 290 friends and asked them to forward the event to their friends. In addition, I contacted Trocaire College’s web and social media director, Jackie Bryant and asked if she could get the college involved and support me in the contest. Other items that helped were writing a press release and sending it out to the local media and an occasional ‘tweet’ on Twitter.

4.       Why did you want to become a chef?

Having traveled all over the world while serving in the military, I have experienced the tastes and smell of many cultures’ foods. Food tells a certain story about the people and their environment. I want to become a chef because I want to share my experiences in other cuisines besides classical American by highlighting popular dishes of each respective culture.

5.       What fabric and style of uniform do you enjoy wearing most?

For me, I wear a white, basic, poly-cotton blend, long sleeve chef coat. Some of the reasons for this choice are that the coat is light and breathes well, plus it washes well and I do not have to iron it. 🙂

6.       Do you enjoy dining out in your free time?

Yes, we dine out at least two times a week. It can be anything from the local pizza joint    to casual fine dining at a local independently owned restaurant.

7.       Do you see any changes in food trends?

                Yes, I have been doing a lot of research on upcoming food trends and utilizing the NRA’s website to gather my information. Interestingly, there are many trends that are in high demand such as, tapas, Asian, food trucks, affordable entrees with reduced portion sizes and reduced priced apps during the week.

8.       What are your future plans, once you become a full-fledged professional Chef?

                After working the line in the restaurant, I would like to eventually take the Executive chef’s position with the ability later on to manage the business entirely. If business is good, I may just open another restaurant in another part of the U.S.

9.       Is there any one thing you would have done differently in starting your culinary career?

Start it early in life! The restaurant business is demanding and there are long hours in the kitchen. By starting earlier, not only do you gain the fundamental skills to base your experiences on but also the ability to cope well under pressure and fatigue.

10.   What advice would you give to someone who wants to go into culinary school?

You must ask yourself several questions before even thinking about culinary school:

  1. Do I like people? Am I independent or do I work well with others?
  2. Do I like to work long hours? Weekends? Holidays?
  3. Do I take directions well and have the ability to produce what is asked of me?
  4. Am I doing this for the money or the love of the career?
  5. If I own my restaurant, am I willing to work without getting a paycheck every week?
  6. Can I accept constructive criticism or feedback from fellow co-workers, managers, and customers?

If you answered positively to the questions, you are ready to investigate and follow your culinary dream. If not, look into other aspects of the industry such as, lodging, cruise lines, and air transportation. There is a variety of careers within the hospitality industry to choose from.

Congratulations again, Peter, and remember to come see us at the show at Booth #1904!

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