Executive Chef Tim Courtney
THEN…the awakened calling
It was October 1997 when I first set foot on the venerable campus of The Culinary Institute of America in stately Hyde Park, NY. Here I was, just 16, and from a small suburban town in central Chester County PA, visiting this school – the grande dame of American Culinary Arts at the urging of the Chef for whom I was working that summer. I clearly was too young to fully appreciate the countless world-class chefs and industry leaders who had walked these same grounds before me, but I knew instantly—this was it. I was struck by the beauty of the Hudson Valley, in awe of the impressive buildings, and I can still recall that feeling in the pit of my gut, “This is where I belong.” I felt more awake than at anytime before in my young life. I had found my calling.
Two years later, after a rigorous and competitive acceptance process, I proudly donned my starched whites as a new student chef at the CIA, my formal training began, and a lifetime bond was formed. The experience of the CIA is an absolute immersion into the world of cooking and food culture, a world where I found a sense of place. Cooking, to me, became this artistic craft in pursuit of perfection, an ongoing practice of a tradesman, a relentless study of food, a honing of one’s technique and a total love affair with the aesthetics of how we eat and share our love at the table.
NOW…the shared devotion
As I have matured, so too has my style of cooking. It is the evolution of a chef to find what aspect of cooking truly defines us as cooks and to develop a personal style around it. Even after cooking for nearly two decades my fascination with flavor has never waned. Naturally, this evolving hunger fueled a desire to grow my own carefully selected heirloom and regional vegetables, herbs, and roots. Over the course of a few growing seasons, this avocation has became a rewarding, creative, and consuming obsession. The excitement of cooking is in the transformation of raw ingredients into something greater than the sum of its parts and, in my experience, with an intensively sustainable garden, I found a mirroring of that excitement. Developing that relationship with the soil and nature’s elements pushed back the boundaries of where “cooking from scratch” begins and, through that, came a deeper respect for the ingredients I use.
Working at the Silverspoon has given me an opportunity to harness that excitement and share my life’s devotion with others. It has brought a sense of purpose to my cooking and a greater appreciation for the geography of this place. I feel fortunate to be cooking in an area with such a rich agricultural history, surrounded by like-minded, passionate individuals pursuant in their crafts of artisan cheese making, growing of fruits and vegetables, raising of animals, and foraging of wild foods. To this aim, it is with humility that I cook for you –applying my craft of conscientious cooking, sourcing of local sustainable ingredients, and a passion for great food.