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Illustration by Joel Kimmel
In Walter Coman’s nearly 30-year career in restaurants, he’s held every title from short order cook to sous chef to line cook at Cactus Pear (his current gig). Here’s a taste of the knowledge he’s picked up along the way.
Who first taught you how to cook? I learned most about cooking from Paul Sturkey at Pigall’s and then later at Sturkey’s. He was a teacher. I wish he still had a restaurant; I’d probably still be working with him.
What made him a good boss? He took the time to get to know his people. He’d be the last one to leave and the first there in the morning. He wasn’t one of these people saying, “Get this done.” He was doing it. To me, that’s an easy person to follow.
Why Cactus Pear? I’ve been working here off and on for about 10 years. Sally [Sunkara], the owner, she respects everybody here. I quit, come back, quit, come back. She always takes me back. It’s just more family-oriented.
Is that a big change? Yeah. This year, coming up, will be the first Thanksgiving I’ve spent with my family in more than 20 years. When I’d go home I’d have to eat leftovers, or my family would be somewhere else. My youngest daughter wants to be a chef. And that’s what I want her to realize—family life is going to be put on the back burner. This is a serious business.
3215 Jefferson Ave.
Originally published in the November 2012 issue.