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Jeffrey Orr, Capitol ChopHouse

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Jeffrey Orr, executive chef, Capitol ChopHouse.

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

For a relatively small operation, we have quite a few moving parts. The greatest challenge for me at the Hilton is trying to wrangle so many different menus and so many different products, and to produce the highest quality food at a wide variety of price points in a way that is efficient in the kitchen and financially responsible to the hotel property.

The most rewarding part of my job as a chef has been teaching young cooks. Getting them to focus on fundamentals and to taste their food in a fast-paced environment is critical to their development. Finding cooks who want to learn and who realize what they don’t yet know is a much greater challenge than it was years ago.

Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

There are a number of chefs whose business sense has enabled them to expand the number of restaurant concepts they operate and still maintain the highest standards. Two chefs for whom I worked, Kurt Gutenbruner and Saul Bolton, have multiple restaurants that are successful and great at the same time. I think it’s the interest they place in the development of their staff that has enabled them to succeed.

What has been the high point of your career so far?

Helping the next generation. I’m very proud of all the cooks who have come through my kitchens and have become chefs and restaurant owners. I hope a little of their success is owing to their time with me.

Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Don’t be in such a hurry.

What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?

As a chef, we have access to so many great products from local growers and other suppliers. The sheer number of restaurants and other food service operations purchasing from them has enabled the growers to take a chance on raising food that would have been much riskier years ago because the market wasn’t as strong.

Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

For better or worse, my talents are extremely difficult to keep secret.

What are your guilty pleasures?

When I opened my first restaurant, I didn’t know any better and worked extremely long hours. When I would finish my workday, I usually had forgotten to eat all day and the only food available at that time of night was Taco Bell. Sometimes I’d take my burrito and lay on my bed fully dressed from my day at work. A few times I dozed off and woke up clutching the burrito like a teddy bear. If it was still warm, I’d finish it off.

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