Chef profile: Georgia Boy's Ron Holman takes pride in cooking 'real food' for customer base

November 08, 2011|By CHRIS COPLEY |
  • Ron Holman, chef at Georgia Boy Cafe at Park Circle in Hagerstown, prepares baked macaroni and cheese. The restaurant is known for its homestyle Southern-style menu.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

Editor's note: This is the first in an occasional series of stories interviewing local chefs.

Ron Holman, who heads the kitchen at Georgia Boy Cafe at Park Circle in Hagerstown, does not think of himself as a chef.

"I don't like to be called a chef. I'm a cook," he said. "I don't have any formal training as a chef. I just want to satisfy that (homestyle) customer."

Holman and business partner Montez Dorsey opened Georgia Boy Cafe at Park Circle about two years ago. The place has found a steady clientele serving homestyle, Southern dishes such as fried chicken, fried catfish, collard greens and barbecued chicken wings.

Earlier this week, The Herald-Mail sat down before the lunch rush with Holman and chatted.

How did you get started as a cook?

It's funny. It started when I was 14. I had a candy store in the Boys Club, and I sold chicken dinners on weekends.

How did you learn to be a cook?

It comes from missing home. I'm from Georgia — Albany. I just liked hanging around the kitchen with my mom. We always used to have homemade desserts. I like baking. I have a terrible sweet tooth.

How did the restaurant opening go?

I used to entertain at home. I cooked for 15 to 20 at a time. But at this level (running a restaurant) I was nervous. We had to work things out.

When we opened, we had a family night. Friends and family came over to eat the food and give us feedback.

What sets apart your approach to cooking?

My approach is based on my lifelong dream. Anything you order is cooked to order. There's nothing waiting under lights back there. So everything you order takes 20 to 25 minutes, especially the fried chicken. Once people come in and they get to eat the food, they understand.

We do real foods — mostly Southern cuisine. We're well-known for fried chicken, collard greens and mac and cheese. Our desserts are homemade, and collard greens are fresh. This is not a heat-and-eat place.

I like people to enjoy real foods that are full of flavor.

Restaurant kitchens can be high-pressure places to work. You seem pretty calm. How is it in your kitchen?

I love what I do. I'm not saying the blood pressure doesn't rise sometimes. It does.

Do you have a favorite ingredient?

I try different things — shrimp jambalaya, Creole dishes. We're looking more into Louisiana-style dishes. I like a little spice.

At Thanksgiving, we do a buffet, and everything is like you would make at home. We don't just open a can and heat it up.

What do you cook at home?

I don't cook at home. When you're around your own food all day, you want to eat something different. So after work, I'll go to another restaurant. Unfortunately, this is more of a chain area. There aren't a lot of restaurants that are real restaurants.

What do you do when you're not working?

I rest. I watch a lot of TV in my spare time. I watch chef shows, to sharpen my skills, to see how I can do something better.

And I have dogs — two pit bulls. I just lost one, Diamond, I had for 16 years.


People don't cook like they used to.

For the most part, people have stopped cooking.

But we see a lot of families dining in here — Mom and Dad, Gramma and the kids. We like to see that.

What are your goals for the restaurant?

We've moved into entertainment, where you can have dinner, listen to poetry or a singer.

We're also going into more creative pairings with food and wine.

We want to open another restaurant. In Frederick — that's a good place to have a restaurant. There's a lot of competition there. Competition is good — we could be next to a Buffalo Wild Wings and we'd still make it.

What's your advice for other people who dream of becoming chefs?

For someone that's creative, they should just do it. There's never a dull moment. You can change it up — it's never the same. For me, it all starts with a dream. Everybody dreams. You just have to follow that dream.

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