Chef Spotlight: Kevin Hermann (The Porch at Siena)
Where are you from originally?
Born in Connecticut, I grew up in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Kansas.
When did you start cooking? Tell us about an early experience cooking with family or working in the industry.
I started cooking when I was 21 years old after working in the front of the house since I was 15. Beginning a new chapter in life, everything pointed me toward the culinary arts. I enrolled in Johnson County Community College of Kansas City and obtained my first apprenticeship position at the Kansas City Country Club. It was an amazing hands on learning experience ... My executive chef became a mentor of mine who taught me everything he knew. I learned how to create great food while maintaining a high level of professionalism and organization. This was just the beginning of my education as I later graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in January, 2008.
Who are your mentors? Where did you meet them and what did they teach you?
In my culinary career I have had 2 mentors.The first was my executive chef in Kansas City, Andrew Knessey, and the second was my executive chef in Rhinebeck New York, Wilson Costa. Both of these chefs gave me everything they could. Two of the best chefs that I have worked with, both had completely different cooking and operating styles. Andrew was trained in classical French cuisine. Wilson learned his skills through determination and hard work and was experienced in a wide variety of cuisines and techniques. In working with Chef Costa my love for the Mediterranean grew stronger. He taught me how classic dishes could be done with a local farm to table twist. Chef Costa taught me how to recreate the old, but also how to create something completely new.
Which chefs inspire you? What are they known for, and how did their work change your perspective about cooking?
I have always looked at my colleagues as partners in a great experiment, trying new things and always pushing the line. During my time in Pittsburgh, I have had the opportunity to work with Chef/Owner Justin Severino. In working with him, not only did I see and create some amazing food, but I learned to trust in my imagination and vision. Imagine, create and develop are the 3 key thing that I learned and still work with today. It takes a true, honest chef to tell another chef that something isn’t right, and those are the chefs that I depend on every day. Our titles don’t make us leaders. It is our ability to see beyond the problem and accept that we need to make a change. Determination and humility are two traits that I am constantly developing.
Tell us about The Porch at Schenley & Siena. What type of cuisine do you serve? What is the atmosphere like? What makes you unique?
The Porch at Siena is the second of the Porch Brand restaurants. We never imagined opening a second location, but after having great success in Schenley we couldn’t pass up this opportunity. So taking all of the things we loved and adding in all of the things we wished to adjust, we created the Siena location. We are a very casual, up scale farm to table restaurant featuring a wide variety of locally sourced and sustainable products from around the city of Pittsburgh. We blend the Mediterranean way of life into our everyday cooking by utilizing what we have to create well balanced, exciting and humble food.The Porch restaurants currently have the same menus. As we grow into the Siena location we will see some individuality in the menus allowing for slight changes according to our guests' needs.
What is the best part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is helping new cooks achieve their goals in the kitchen. I love passing on what was given to me and watching these young cooks grow ... I also genuinely love serving our guests. I appreciate the opportunity to give someone a chance to relax and forget about the stress of their day while enjoying lunch or dinner.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging aspect of my job is work life balance. It is no secret that chefs have it hard. Sometimes I think that our significant others have it even harder. I often work 75-80 hour weeks and am constantly digging through emails, texts and phone calls to make sure the restaurant has all that it needs.
What is your favorite fresh fish or meat to work with? Why?
My favorite fish to work with is Wild Striped Bass. It's delicate flavor and insanely delicious skin is unrivaled. My favorite meat is pork; I have a true love for the pigs that give us all of our delicious pork. The variety of things that you can produce from one animal is truly amazing. One of our signature items here is our house made bacon. Made from Berkshire pork bellies, it has unbelievable flavor.
Why do you work with Land and Sea?
I work with Land & Sea because they share the same core values in business that I do. I look for quality, price and who you are when making a purchasing decision. I put a great deal of trust into the people that I work with and am proud to say that Land & Sea has always been there to get me what I need.
What do you do for fun outside of work?
I enjoy hiking, camping, watching movies, and cigars. I love the outdoors but I am also good with TV and pizza. It just depends on the season and what’s going on.
How do you want to be remembered, both personally and professionally?
I want to be remembered as someone who never gave up on anyone and never gave up on the business. I don't necessarily want to be known as the best chef in all of Pittsburgh, but one of the chefs who helped turn the city's food scene around. I want to be known as someone who cared about his team's success. I want the credit to go to them, not myself. I want my friends and family to be proud of what I have done.