by Melissa LaScaleia
Introduce me to your family.
My parents are 78 years old, and doing well. They live in Massachusetts along with my two brothers and a sister. I’m the eldest and the only one who moved away. Everyone can cook like a champ, I’m just the only one who does it for a living. Locally, my family is my fiancé, Kim Bodkin. She’s a native Myrtle Beachian.
Where are all the places you came from? What area of the Grand Strand do you now call home?
I was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. I moved to Providence, Rhode Island to attend culinary school at Johnson & Wales, then lived in Orlando, Florida to complete an apprenticeship in a French restaurant at the Hyatt Grand Cyprus Resorts. I also trained overseas, living in Switzerland for almost five years, and traveled around Europe, learning about culture and cuisine. Because of this, I speak German somewhat fluently. Now I live in Myrtle Beach, where I’ve been for the past 28 years.
Why did you move here?
After Europe, I sent my resume out to a head hunter, and decided to move here to take an executive chef position at The Sea Captain’s House Restaurant. I was their executive chef for seven years, and still remain close with the owners and their family— I cook for them several times a year through my catering business.
Tell me about your business.
What I love about food is that it brings people together. I also love that I’m in a never-ending-learning profession. I’ve been in the culinary arts field for thirty-eight years and there’s nothing I can’t cook, but I still see new techniques, ideas, and recipes all the time.
I got my first executive chef job when I was twenty-six, and was in the restaurant scene for nineteen years. It’s hard, and can wear you out a bit. At thirty-eight, I stopped and started my own catering company, Strand Catering, www.strand-catering.com. I’ve also been an instructor at the Culinary Institute in Myrtle Beach for the past twenty-three years, teaching an array of classes, like Kitchen Fundamentals, and Asian Cuisine.
What is your favorite place in this area?
I’m a beach bum, so any of the Grand Strand beaches. I would rather sweat than freeze. I also love all the beautiful golf courses here.
What are your favorite things to do here?
Besides cooking, my hobbies include beach time, golfing, and (even though I have no tattoos or piercings), riding my Harley Davidson around town. I like the outdoor activities because I’m always cooped up inside cooking. I love putting around my yard, landscaping. My yard looks like a golf course, and I always decorate seasonally. I also love deep sea fishing. The biggest fish I ever caught was a 145lb sailfish in Costa Rica; it was catch and release. Locally, I caught a 50lb wahoo; I ate that one. Gotta eat sometime.
What do you like the most about living here?
I love the Southern hospitality and laid-back atmosphere. People here are nice and gracious, and there’s so much to do. I haven’t been bored yet.
How has your lifestyle changed or what new activities have you taken up since moving here?
I had never golfed till I moved here. I also met Kim here, at a culinary event. Food brought us together. I proposed to her in Charleston at a French restaurant, before dessert. I had to do it with a culinary flare, of course.
What is one thing that your neighbors don’t know about you?
I’m very artistic, and like to do oil paintings and charcoal sketches. It helps me with food and plate presentations I think: like creating art on a plate.
Any advice for aspiring chefs?
Never forget your culinary roots. And no bland food allowed.