On The Line: Tom Hope Of The Catch, Part Two

“All my memories of cooking are through restaurant experiences as a kid. When I was really young, my dad belonged to a club. It wasn't like a supper club, but it was a really cool club in downtown Chicago on the 60th floor. We would go in, and it was mostly tableside service with things like Caesar salad.

I tried things I never tried before. I was always adventurous when I was younger. I have great memories of going to Charlie Trotter's for the first time.”

Read our interview with Tom Hope of The Catch, Part One.
And now, on to Part Two . . .

Tell us about the three months you spent in Europe.
I spent a month at a Swiss culinary school in Brig. Traveled in Spain, Italy, Germany, France and Netherlands. Traveling in Europe helped tie together all the culinary school training that I received in the states and Switzerland. I can't wait to go back again some day [Editor's Note: Hope has two degrees from Kendall College in Chicago: An Associates degree in Culinary Arts, and a Bachelors in Restaurant Management.]

Hardest lesson you've learned:
Being defensive about shortcomings will not get you anywhere.


What's your favorite childhood memory?
Riding my bike around town, playing sports and not having a care in the world, except what sport I was going to play next, what my next meal was and what time I had to be home.

Last book you read; how was it?
Setting the Table by Danny Meyers. Great book with great managing philosophies.

Are you superstitious?
Not really, but I hate when a night is going really smooth, our guests are happy and the restaurant has a good vibe. Then someone says, “Tonight is going really smooth.” Almost every time, something goes bad.

What were you up to five years ago?
This same week five years ago we were doing a Thomas Jefferson-themed beer dinner at TAPS Brea and Corona.

I had recently moved to California, and I was getting comfortable with my new job and responsibilities.

Last song playing on your radio:
Counting Stars by One Republic.

When you're not cooking in the kitchen, what are you doing?
Spending time with my family. There is nothing I'd rather be doing.

Where did you grow up?
Niles, Illinois. 20 minutes North of Chicago.

Last thing you searched online:
A fryer filtering machine (how exciting).

Do you have any skills that are non-food related?
Gardening, computers, photography. I love gardening. When I do garden, I go big. The more land I have, the more I'll garden. I'll do a bunch of stone fruit trees. I'll have a dwarf banana tree. I'll plant seasonally. In the spring, I'll plant peas and lettuces.

It's a good, calming experience for my kids. I'll send the kids out to the herb garden to get me some basil and thyme. It helps them appreciate organic. I'll get natural bug repellants and things like praying mantises or ladybugs. It's fun for them to see how the whole ecosystem works together.

What would you be doing if you weren't in this business?
I would be working with computers or something in computer technology. I would like to do something with menu design, using the computer to make a chef's job easier. For example, I would design a simple recipe book for people to share.

To be honest, it's impossible for me to imagine not being in the foodservice industry. I don't do it because it's the only thing I know how to do. I do it because I love it. I never feel like I'm going to work.

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