Our story is like the Butler, PA culinary equivalent to The Odyssey... or something like that. Well, probably not even close, but then again, I'm no writer.
To know the Shop, you first have to know Bill . . .
In his own words, here's his journey
The Road to The Chop Shop actually started out in Meridian way back in the day. I believe it was a Wednesday, or not. Any who, I used to wash dishes at W. Rick's Taproom and Grill and started to learn how to cook, like many dishwashers do, because none of the cooks ever wanted to make me anything to eat. So, I spent a few months being the most awesome hydro ceramic engineer I could be and low and behold, I was moved to the line when we had a bunch of cooks not show up for work. I was lucky that the owners of the restaurant allowed me on the line since I was only 16 and technically should not have been operating a lot of the equipment that I was in fact operating. I spent my high school career in that kitchen learning how to repeat whatever was shown to me. When it came time for graduation, I wasn't really sure that a four year traditional college was the route for me, so I packed up my stuff and headed to Penn College of Technology in Williamsport, PA... which was pretty much exactly the same as good old Butler, PA.
Williamsport was a former industrial town that was kind of depressed, a lot like Butler. The only big draws out there were Penn College and The Little League World Series for a few weeks in August. Going to culinary school taught me the science behind cooking and that I didn't know nearly what I thought I did about cooking. A little advice for anyone thinking about going to culinary school, it's great for learning theory, science, and practicing basic skills, but you will by no means be a "chef" when you graduate. With the amount of people in your class, you will never learn the multi-tasking and time management that it requires to be successful in a REAL restaurant. (Click over to the CPH page for rants on being a chef and REAL restaurants.) After graduating from Penn College, I began working at The Pines Tavern in Gibsonia.
With the help of a lot of friends and family, I built a commercial kitchen at my house. In that tiny kitchen, I used to meet with, plan, and then cook catered events, usually by myself. I specialized in higher end weddings. The business grew by nothing more than word of mouth. I continued to cater full time for almost three years to the day we opened The Shop.
I called on my friends and family once again to help me buy, gut, and renovate what is now The Chop Shop. We closed on the building in December of 2010 and within 4 months, had completely gutted and transformed 108 N Main St into what it is today. It's always a work in progress, and we still do almost all of the work ourselves. So, now you know how we got here. It's been a long road, took about 13 years (probably the equivalent time it took to read this novel), but it has all been worth it. Seeing guests in the tables everyday, enjoying REAL, SCRATCH COOKING validates all the hard work. We are constantly striving to be the best restaurant in the area. I do believe we are the only one that does NOT have a microwave and a completely open kitchen. Thank you to everyone who recognize these things and continue supporting and spreading the Chop Shop love!
The Pines opened my eyes to what was possible with food. At that time, they were nationally recognized for their casual fine dining wine dinners. They had also been at the forefront of the farm to table movement for our area. We actually grew our own tomatoes and herbs there way back in the early 2000's. Each year, they added more space to the gardens. Jason Culp, Executive Chef at The Pines, helped me to become a much better multi-tasker, an extremely consistent cook, and much better menu writer. They eventually promoted me to Sous Chef and trusted me with most of the everyday functions of their kitchen, including some menu writing at the age of 22. After a couple years there, I left to become the Executive Sous Chef of the Treesdale Country Club in Mars, PA.
The Treesdale Country Club was my last stop before starting Dr. Sous Custom Catering (and eventually The Chop Shop). Many people who I am close to know that I my time at Treesdale was not filled with rainbows and butterflies, but it did teach me a lot and forced me to grow culinarily. Without Treesdale, I would not have learned how to juggle catering jobs, a restaurant, and on site private parties all at the same time. I would not have learned the display skills that I use every time we cater a function. And, I wouldn't have the same drive to be successful on my own terms without Treesdale. I spent three very long, frustrating, anxiety filled years there. A lot of that time was spent questioning whether or not really wanted to continue in this business. I am terrible at the politics needed to be successful in a large corporate setting and really didn't like sacrificing creativity for the bottom line. In the end, that is what drove me to keep on pushing and start a place of my own where having fun and being creative and guest satisfaction where the three most important things. I whole heartedly believe that if you focus on those three things, you will eventually make money. So, I left Treesdale to cater on my own.