'Nothing beats a steak'

AT WORK

Morton's Annapolis chef also likes to be last to leave the kitchen at the end of the day

July 23, 2008|By NANCY JONES-BONBREST | NANCY JONES-BONBREST,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Sergio Loya-Perez

Executive chef

Morton's The Steakhouse, Annapolis

Salary $55,000

Age 43

Years on the job One

How he got started Loya-Perez says he always loved to cook. As a young boy he enjoyed mastering the art of flipping fried eggs without breaking the yolk.

He officially began his restaurant career working as a part-time chef while attending the University of Nebraska. He never graduated from there but in 1999 went on to graduate from the Culinary Institute of America in New York.

For the past nine years he has worked as an executive chef, most recently at an Italian restaurant in Denver. Last year he joined Morton's and began a two-month training program in its Connecticut Avenue restaurant in Washington.

Typical day The restaurant serves only dinner, so his day doesn't start until about 1 p.m. He usually works five days a week with Sundays and Mondays off. The restaurant seats 168 with two small boardrooms that seat 70 additional people.

The first thing he tackles when he arrives is answering e-mail and messages from his general manager or corporate officials. He then looks over the reservations for the night to find out how many customers to expect, what special requests have been made and if there are banquets or large parties scheduled.

He then checks what food is prepared and what still needs to be done. By about 2:30 p.m. it's time to start setting up stations and prepping food.

Loya-Perez oversees a staff of about 14 people. Dinner service typically lasts until 11 p.m. and he prefers to stay throughout. "I like to oversee the kitchen to the very end. I like to be the last one to walk out of the kitchen."

During dinner service "My biggest role is to cover the broiler where we cook all of our beef and steaks," he said. Although there's a full-time person who monitors the broiler, Loya-Perez says he's there to act as quality control. "People's expectations are very high here in Annapolis, and we try to cater to them."

Favorite steak Porterhouse, medium rare. Loya-Perez says it's a great cut, with filet mignon on one side of the bone and New York strip on the other.

The good "I really love cooking, and I like watching people enjoy what I make for them."

The bad "Sometimes the late nights. But I've always accepted that."

In the weeds A kitchen slang term for running behind during heavy demand, but when the restaurant is packed and in full swing, Loya-Perez said he enjoys that energy and atmosphere. "It makes you feel alive towards the end of the night."

If he's not eating a Morton's steak He's eating Chinese food. "But at the end of the day, nothing beats a steak."

His staff He said he enjoys training them and watching their knowledge of food grow. But scheduling issues can sometimes be difficult.

Philosophy Apply the fundamentals in cooking and always respect the ingredients.

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