Patty Roche, our Culinary Specialist, is an employee that has touched so many areas of Stonewall Kitchen in the past 14 years that she has been with us. From her start in September of 2001 as a seasonal employee answering guest calls on our Guest Services team, to leading our visual merchandising team, to food styling and working in our test kitchen and Cafe, Patty has (almost) done it all.
With 25+ years of experience in the restaurant and catering business, Patty has brought a wealth of knowledge to us here at Stonewall Kitchen. Most commonly found in the Cooking School, her booming voice and contagious laughter brings repeat guests back to her classes year after year. Patty describes herself as “a butcher’s daughter,” and credits her dad for her love of food, an affection for liverwursts, giving back and having fun. Through her family’s business, Patty was taught just how big a side of beef is and the right way to treat customers.
Her favorite ingredients for a great time? Laughter, butter and beef, of course! Check out our interview with Patty and learn what makes her such an asset to Stonewall Kitchen.
Q: Had you always planned for a culinary career? What inspired you to attend culinary school?
A: I had started working in restaurants during college as a waitress, but I was always curious about the kitchen side of the business. I would pepper the cooks with questions, like “how do you know when the steak is done” and “how did you make that sauce?” They would usually end up chasing me out of the kitchen. I then started doing very small catering jobs, which grew into larger catering jobs over time and I learned the ropes as I went along. My Joy of Cooking cookbook was my bible, as I had no internet to refer to. This was also a way for me to stay at home and be with my two young children.
I attended culinary school much later in life at the Atlantic Culinary School in Dover, NH. When I was asked to open the Cooking School in 2008, I requested that I complete culinary school so that I could be the best instructor that I could be. I knew there was so much I needed to learn and I was proud to be the oldest one in my class!
Q: As a butcher’s daughter, you must have grown up around lots of beef! What is your favorite cut?
A: A New York Strip – it has a good balance of fat to meat. My dad would take steak and hand crank it through a grinder (no food processors or electric grinders back then!) to make our hamburger patties. I could never understand why hamburgers made by everyone else weren’t as wonderful as my dad’s. Filet mignon was a staple in my house, too.
Q: You’ve spent a substantial amount of time donating your catering services. What motivates you to volunteer?
A: I learned the value of giving back from my dad. I was always tagging along with him as he volunteered to cook for nonprofit events in Bridgeport, CT. He always reminded me that you volunteer for the sake of helping others and never for a “thank you.” The thanks you get is giving back to your community.
[Note: Patty has volunteered years of catering services, to help raise funds to restore the 100+ year old Fayerweather Light House in Black Rock, CT and as the co-founder of the Olde Black Rock Lobster Festival, serving more than 40,000 lbs. of lobster over a 9 year period.]
By using my cooking over the years, it has given me opportunities to really make a difference when I was not always able to write a check. I have also coached girls’ basketball and softball for over 20 years – I ran our church basketball league, which provided a safe place for children on Saturdays and Sundays.
Q: You were one of the founders of the Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School, which hosts thousands of visitors per year. What inspired the idea?
A: The founders of the company actually asked me to open a Cooking School – it was their idea and I jumped at the opportunity. We traveled to another cooking school in Chapel Hill, NC to learn about their program and understand what we were about to get ourselves into. They were very forth coming about how to set it up and were very helpful. I returned a month later with pictures, drawings and hundreds of notes on how to set up Stonewall Kitchen’s Cooking School and the rest is history.
Q: When you’re developing menus for your Cooking School classes, where do you begin?
A: My menus reflect food that I enjoy cooking – lots of comfort foods, mostly. I try to work my menus around helpful tips that I can teach during my class.
Q: You teach quite a few classes at the Cooking School! What is your favorite menu from this past year?
A: I love Julia Child week – butter, booze and heavy cream, what more can I say!
Q: Have you had any funny moments while teaching?
A: A live lobster flew out of a pot and scampered up the counter one day in front of a full class – that was pretty funny. One time I thought my apron was falling down while I was teaching, but it was really my pants. I almost walked out from behind the counter with no pants on!
Q: What’s your favorite dish to make and why?
A: Anything Italian. I am 100% Irish, but if there is Parmesan cheese and a nice red sauce involved, I’m in. I make a mean “paper thin” Eggplant Parmesan and now I make amazing meatballs, thanks to a good friend of mine. It is always good to have a nice Italian girl as a friend!
Q: You’ve done so much at Stonewall Kitchen since you started here in 2003. What is your favorite part about working at Stonewall Kitchen?
A: The diversity of the positions I’ve had. I started in guest services answering phone calls as a seasonal employee, then moved to the York Company Store as a store associate, then I began working as the Lead Visual Merchandiser. I’ve helped out in the Cafe whenever needed, helped opened our South Windsor and Avon, CT stores as well as our Rochester, NH store. I travel to teach cooking classes in Portland, ME and South Windsor and I am also one of the founding members of FRESK (Fun, Recreational Events at Stonewall Kitchen). Opening the Cooking School and being the manager was by far the hardest and most rewarding, though, and what I am most proud of.
If you’re interested in taking a class with Patty in our Cooking School, check out her remaining classes for the year!
- Friday, September 4, 2015 –
- Friday, September 11, 2015 –
- Thursday, September 17, 2015 –
- Thursday, October 1, 2015 –
- Friday, October 9, 2015 –
- Tuesday, October 13, 2015 –
- Thursday, October 29, 2015 –
- Thursday, November 5, 2015 –
- Friday, November 20, 2015 –
- Friday, November 27, 2015 –
- Friday, December 4, 2015 –
- Friday, December 11, 2015 –
- Friday, December 18, 2015 –
- Tuesday, December 29, 2015 –