Chef Spotlight: Jon Suarez of HO-HO-KUS INN AND TAVERN
Jon Suarez, Co-Executive Chef of Ho-Ho-Kus Inn and Tavern, is in our "Chef Spotlight." Jon grew up in Bergen County, New Jersey. At an early age, he was drawn to cooking when he would put seasonings from his mother's spice rack in boiling water to change the flavor of his pasta and fill the air with a savory aroma. Upon graduating high school, Jon was offered an intern position under Chef Michael J. Carrino at a French restaurant in Montclair, New Jersey. There, he further developed a refined understanding of his passion for cooking. In 2010, Jon enrolled in the Italian Culinary Academy (ICC) traveling to Colorno, Italy to study at the ALMA school. He interned in the Italian cities of Carloforte, Sardinia, and Porto Cervo, and returned to the states in 2011. Jon's experiences in Italy laid a strong foundation for his career and contributed to the skill set he needed to grow in his culinary practice. In 2014, Jon joined the Ho-Ho-Kus Inn & Tavern team studying under Chefs Andrew Rodriguez, Gregory Torrech, and Hank Barrett. Today he works alongside Chef Troy Piegaro. They share the title of Co-Executive Chef as they continue the rich and illustrious reputation of the venue.
What was your earliest interest in cooking?
When I was about 12 years old, I visited New Orleans with my father and was able to experience the nation's cultural melting pot. After trying gumbo, turtle soup, and crocodile, I became enthralled with the diversity of flavors, and I became eager to learn to make these types of dishes.
Who were some of your career mentors?
My first mentor was Chef Michael Carrino, Chef/Owner of Pig & Prince in Montclair, New Jersey. He took me under his wing when I was 17 years old and taught me how to enjoy cooking and how to be playful with the culinary arts.
What culinary styles have influenced your career?
I studied in Colorno, Italy and growing up as a Jersey boy my mother's bolognese and angel hair pasta with meatballs drove me to excel in preparing Italian foods, in particular making pasta. My studying under Chef Carrino enabled me to study French cooking, while my visit to New Orleans guided me to create what I believe is the "perfected" gumbo recipe. I like to consider myself a chef with a well-balanced background.