Thomas Pearce first knew he wanted to be a chef at the age of 15 when he began working (with a permit, of course) as a prep cook and dishwasher at a diner in Charlottesville. After using the French fry fryer, he just knew preparing food for others was what he wanted to do. He later trained at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY and developed a passion for French cooking and classical cuisine. The techniques, styles and the freshness drew him to this philosophy of cooking. Thirty-one years later, he still loves his job!
He has been with Ukrop’s for 20+ years now. Just as he was drawn to French cooking, Tom was similarly attracted to Jim & Bobby Ukrop’s philosophies for high-quality, fresh-ingredient foods. As the Executive Chef of Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods, he is involved in training, research and development, daily production, quality control, and best practices in the kitchen and production. He loves to create, train, innovate, teach and cook. You can often find him in the test kitchen. As if that’s not enough, he also develops or writes recipes – to date, it’s over 500! He most enjoys working with his fellow associates at Ukrop’s. “They are an unbelievable group of folks. Pearce said, “They work hard and are very helpful.”
His favorite ingredient is butter – it enriches the product, adds flavor and texture, and is great for soups and sauces. When asked about his most memorable cooking experience, Tom shared that it was when he was working as a Banquet Chef at the Commonwealth Club in 1990 and had the opportunity to prepare food for Certified Master Chef Ferdinand Metz of the Culinary Institute of America.
Tom’s advice for aspiring chefs is to cook because you love it! “Cook because it is in your heart and soul,” said Pearce. Don’t forget formalized education and classes because you build a foundation and also learn as you work, as well as learn from people you work with. His advice to customers at home striving to become better cooks is to “Cook because you want to be creative!”
He enjoys White House Rolls Bread Pudding, with White House Rolls (of course), white chocolate and dried cranberries. Yum!