Chef Pete and I share several commonalities and have known each other for over a year. When he invited me to his culinary thesis, the capstone dinner service for his degree, I couldn’t resist. After dinner we had a conversation that led to this question, “How do you transition from the rigid military life, to the creative world of brewing and culinary arts?” This is his journey as described by him (and lightly edited by us):
I served about twelve years in the service as a counterintelligence agent. After several deployments and other missions, I found myself a little burnt out on having Pakistan as the place in which I'd spent the longest time. So, I did what any reasonable person would do: I left the Army, passed on the six digit government contracting job, and got an internship at Franklin’s shoveling grain for free beer and experience. Mike Roy was kind enough to take me in after I made a quick attempt at University of Maryland University College (UMUC). I had no idea how hard the brewing world was to get into. Honestly, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I had a vague idea that I wanted to make something that people could enjoy and I could talk about freely.
I spent about six months working for Mike, during which I went to the Craft Brewer’s Conference, attended a few beer festivals, made some homebrew, took some Siebel classes, and watched as my precious savings dwindled away… and away… and away…at which point I stronlgy considered some of those government contractor jobs and then promptly got a job at De Vinos stocking beer in the cooler! This turned out to be a good little education. A lot of tasting of beers and wines, meeting some of the industry folk, seeing what people like to drink, and becoming a Certified Cicerone. My favorite part of this job was getting to introduce people to beers they didn’t think they’d like and then watching them go down the rabbit hole of trying every unique, Belgian, funked, sour, or experimental beer they could get their hands on.
While I was working as a beer boy in the store, I made the pivotal decision to go to culinary school. Now, this was not a light decision for me to go back to school. My history as a student has been a bit sketchy. Before joining the Army, I had tried community college a few times. It never stuck. In my past lives in-between college attempts I had worked as a painter, a horse handler (but only of what came out of the backside), and spent a time out in Wyoming working on a cattle ranch. Up to this point in my life I’d tried college more times than I could count on one hand. Despite all this, while in the Army I went to school for Arabic, cyber warfare, and a whole slough of other things. In the summer of 2011, I started at Stratford University to complete a Bachelor in Culinary Management with a double Major in Culinary and Pastry Arts. This was, and is, a big deal for me.
While going to school, I started working at the DC Homebrew Shop at 3 Stars Brewing Company. I have worked at Three Little Pigs Charcuterie & Salumi in Petworth, which is an awesome little place! Jason and Carolina opened it a few years ago and are really passionate about what they are making. I got to work at whole hog butchery and making salami and other tasty cured items like bacon, smoked salmon, pate, etc. When I stopped working there, I missed it so much that I started butchering pigs in my basement for friends and family. It just feel good to eat something that you made from scratch and even better to have others enjoy it just as much. The only thing that would make it better is if I had raised the animals myself.
I also managed to go on a trip to France with one of my chefs, a Frenchman who has been cooking, butchering, and curing food since before he could walk. I als went up to Lille, the province bordering Belgium, and got to have their delicious, big beers and ate some of the world’s only beer cuisine; Potjevleesh, waterzoi, carbonnade flamande, breads, cheeses, pastries, chocolates and other general deliciousness.
When I came back from France, I ended up making a cross country brewery road trip with a friend going through the Brewmaster Program at UC Davis. We swung down to New Orleans, stopping at distilleries and breweries anytime we could. We got rock star treatment from all the breweries we stopped at, and even the distilleries. This is a testament to the good will of the folks in the industry!
I took a semester off from school and went to the Vermont Institute of Artisan Cheese, now defunct, and became a certified cheese-maker. This is another industry that is hard to get into. After a few attempts to get internships at dozens of creameries, I finally got an opportunity with Canal Junction in Ohio. So, off I went for the spring and summer to make cheese, and loved it! It was a family farm that has been in operation since it was first homesteaded in the 1800s. Canal Junction produces all grass-fed and raw milk cheeses. One of these, Charloe, has been at SAVOR for the past few years, it’s a washed rind American original. We entered it into the American Cheese Society competition this year where it took third place in its category; I was proud to have made the cheese that won!
This brings me to the present. I just did my first official beer dinner through my school. It was a grueling week’s worth of prep work curing, tasting, and cooking. All of this came right after we had our baby boy, Henry. I then got a job cooking at a prominent kitchen and am still working at the homebrew shop. It has been a cool journey for me, and it is ongoing. I'm getting ready to butcher more things in my basement. I have odd things fermenting around the house. And I'm still taking various odd courses. From getting out of the Army and not knowing what I wanted to do with myself to finding my place in the fermented culinary world and starting a family, there have been a lot of steps and stages. This next year will present yet another one: getting into honey bees!
This Beer & Cheese Tasting Dinner represents skills and lessons I learned along all of the many steps I've described above. For those living in the area, you should be sure to check Stratford University's website and calendar for very cool and low-cost dinners and pairings, such as the one I presented here. If you have any questions about any of the industries I mentioned here, be sure ot leave your questions in the comments, I'm happy to answer them!
Beer & Cheese Tasting Dinner
with Chef Peter Scott
Washed Rind Crostini paired with Gueze Lambic
Lineman’s Cuvee Renee 3.5%, Belgium
Meadow Creek Greyson, Virginia
Mesquite Smoked Scottish Salmon, Bloomy Rind Goat Cheese paired with Saison
3 Stars Brewing Company Citra Lemon Saison 6.5%, DC.
Vermont Creamery Bonne Bouche, Vermont
Pork Belly, Pear, and Cheddar Wonton paired with Double IPA
Franklin’s Hop Pun Not Included 9%, Hyattsville, MD.
Jasper Hill Cloth Bound Cheddar, Vermont
Brie Stuffed Pork Loin paired with Robust Porter
DC Brau’s Penn Quarter Porter 5.5%, DC
Mon Pere Brie, France
Blue Cheese Board paired with Belgium Double
Mad Fox’s Abbaye des Chutes 9%, Falls Church, VA.
Carr Valley Ba Ba Blue, Oregon
St. Agar Blue, France
Sorbet made with lindeman's Framboise with a little honey and water, made fresh so that the carbonation was still in it.
Goat Cheese Chocolate Ganache and Almond Tartlet paired with Belgian Tripel
Allagash’s Triple Reserve 9%, Portland, ME.
Vermont Creamery Cherve, Vermont