Today’s interview is with Eagle Rock staffer Mark Dougherty, a professional chef who has worked in the kitchens of notable high-end restaurants, hotels, inns, and corporate settings in a number of states. In fact, he’s practiced his culinary skills in New York City as well as four states: Vermont, Connecticut, North Carolina and Florida.
Mark: I was a cook on a Coast Guard cutter for two years before pursuing a professional career. Cooking comes easy to me. I love the instant gratification that comes with cooking.
Eagle Rock: What’s your favorite meal/dish to prepare?
Mark: Favorite dish? Depends on the day or season. It is very easy to prepare a dish when you have exceptionally fresh ingredients. I love Asian ingredients and balance of flavors. I love French food because — contrary to popular belief — it embodies a simple approach to cooking. Fresh ingredients and proper techniques equals great food!
Eagle Rock: What’s the one thing you’d never order when eating out, and why?
Mark: I would never order Moo goo gai pan from a Greek diner. (Stick to the basics).
Eagle Rock: What advice do you have aspiring chefs?
Mark: If you are seriously thinking about becoming a chef, I suggest you be prepared to do some very basic tasks over and over again. (Wax on, wax off grasshopper). You need a thick skin and a good sense of humor and a strong grasp of sarcasm, along with a strong work ethic in order to prosper.
Eagle Rock: What is your all-time Eagle Rock success story?
Mark: About six years ago we had several consecutive storms that washed out the ditches on the road coming in to the Eagle Rock property, and most of that mud just so happened to settle in the kitchen, along with several inches of freezing cold water. With the help of several Eagle Rock students, we managed to clean up the mess before it could interrupt food service. Seriously again, there are so many success stories that are happening in front of our eyes on a daily basis that it would be unfair to all students past and present to name one. When I see students gain confidence and open up their eyes to a new world where their voices and opinions help shape the community — that’s my definition of success story!
Eagle Rock: When you are not working, what do you do in your spare time?
Mark: What is spare time? Seriously, I like to spruce up my yard, camp in my 1961 Shasta camper, drive my 1967 Ford, and spend time with the family and dogs.
Eagle Rock: What reality show would you win or be kicked off?
Mark: Hell’s Kitchen! I have worked for enough maniacal egocentric chefs in my time that Chef Gordon Ramsey wouldn’t faze me. I would also have a very good chance of being kicked off because I no longer tolerate people yelling at me.