Executive Chef at Ram’s Head
West Chester’s first gastro-pub; defined as a place that combines good food and drink at moderate prices
40 E. Market St
West Chester, PA 19382
Q: So the first question usually is…. “how long have you been cooking?”
A: Oh man… at least 12 years.
Q: Were you born here or are you a transplant?
A: I was born in West Chester and when I was seven I moved to Colombia. Then I moved back and I actually did steel mine work for about 10 years.
Q: How’d you go from steel to food?
A: I used to read the Daily Local News food section and see recipes that looked so good so I would go home and cook. I was so unhappy working in the steel mine that I had to leave and my wife suggested that I try culinary school.
Q: Where did you decide to go?
A: I went to the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College and when I graduated in trained in Philly where I was inspired to move toward the Latin culture in the kitchen. It’s funny, the food I grew up on in Colombia I didn’t think was anything exciting but when I saw how to do fusion foods I realized that I could really do something interesting with my heritage fuse it with American cuisine.
Q: Where did you go from there?
A: I worked part-time at Spence Cafe and was there for five years. During my time there I did continental foods and I would mix in a lot of Latin influence. I got very experimental in my last year there and I developed a following of people that really began trusting me and what I would put on the tables. I did a lot of fun, innovative things and just had fun with the food and people enjoyed it.
Q: I read that you worked in Miami for awhile as well. When did you do that?
A: I got to the point in my career that I wanted to work in a big city. It was a good time in my life to take an opportunity like that so I got a job in Miami and was very fortunate to work with some of my food heroes. I worked there for two years in the top Colombian restaurant in the country and while it was an incredible experience to work with the people I worked with I was working 80-85 hours a week and that got to be very hard on my personal and family life.
Q: Is that when you decided to come back to the area?
A: Yeah, I moved back to West Chester recently and had all of this experience and passion from what I learned in Miami. I had hoped to open a restaurant when I came back but when the timing was right for me to do that it wasn’t the right time for the economy.
Q: Tell me about your family.
A: I have a wonderful wife and two kids, Onyx (age 7) and Blixn (age 9). I was afraid that I was working so many hours in the kitchen that I missed out or would miss out on a lot of their lives, so I was able to take some time to be with them when I first moved back. I worked part-time at Butterfish and spent a lot of time with family and then I decided I was ready to dive head first back into the kitchen.
Q: And thus, you entering the Ram’s Head scene?
A Yes, I’ve always done fine dining since the beginning of my career but this was an opportunity to be totally myself. I get to do fine dining food in a casual atmosphere.
Q: I have to admit I was blown away by the complexity of your food. It’s a very unsuspecting atmosphere and comfortable but the food is just amazing. What was your thought process for the menu?
A: I wanted to keep the descriptions for everything very basic so that went people order it and they taste it it excites them and they experience things they didn’t know they would experience. My goals is to convert the simple eater to someone that wants to try different cuisines and like it. I have a guy that came in every Sunday for wings and I’d slowly work him up to more complex things and now he can’t wait to try new specials. That makes me very happy.
Q: Any other secrets to your success in the kitchen?
A: Service. I learned one very important thing in Miami. You need to make everyone feel like kings and queens and they will come back. If they love the food and feel important they bring friends and they want to keep coming back.
Q: I heard you are a bit of a music freak too. Tell me about it.
A: I am a huge fan of the arts. I used to be a rock journalist for a South American Magazine so I love the influence music has on everything, including the food I make. I’m also really into food for the visual art of it. I love to wow people with simple ingredients. I love looking at cookbooks to see what colors or techniques are used. Food is art and food is fun, I try to convey that with what I put out.
Q: You have some very playful desserts on the menu. Have you always been a fan of creating sweets?
A: Most chefs can be a little afraid of desserts because baking and making sweets can be such a science. Once I got over the fear of messing it up I got to have fun with it, after all it’s supposed to be fun… it’s dessert!
Q: What can we expect from you in the future?
A: I’ll be here for awhile. I love working here and I have a great team. We have some fun ideas coming up like a weekly street food of the world and we’ll have our kitchen staff start doing different sauces for things like wings so that the customers can order them and decide which they like the best. We want to keep making things fun for the customers and show a little bit of what goes on behind the scenes in the kitchen.
Fun Desserts from Paris:
Cracker Jack- Popcorn Ice Cream, Peanut Cake and Caramel Foam
S’Mores- Graham Crackers, Chocolate Truffles and and Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream
Paris’s Kitchen Playlist: