Chef Thomas Ridgley III graduated from Nicholls State University in 2016. Chef Ridgley is a chef at Francesca by Katie’s, a new deli and pizzeria that opened in New Orleans earlier this year. Ridgley says that he always knew he wanted to cook because he grew up in a family that gathered together just for the food. Ridgley has worked in restaurants throughout New Orleans such as Restaurant August and Mopho and was sent to study in Germany at Romantik Hotel Spielweg by his chef mentors who he attributes a lot of his success to.
Q: What is your current job like?
A: Since I assisted with the opening of Francesca by Katie’s I have really been able to see how it has transformed from what it was to what it is now. Now that we are open I am in charge of creating recipes for many of the items that we make in house, my favorite thing being our pulled pork. Anyone that knows me knows how much I love the smoker!
Q: How important do you think that culinary school was to your success?
A: I can’t say enough how important culinary school was to my success. It taught me the techniques and teamwork that prepared me for some of the best kitchens.
Q: Who are your chef mentors?
A: Michael Gulotta, another Nicholls alumn, has been guiding me since I started my career the day after graduating high school. He gave me a job at August and has been helping me ever since. Also, Scott Craig, my current boss, has been a real guide in my career.
Q: What did you learn at CJFCI that still impacts you today?
A: One quote from Chef Randy has really stuck with me. “Why do we season both sides of the meat? Because we EAT both sides of the meat!” I also think that the skills I learned in Garde Manger, Advanced Service, and Regional Cuisine impact a lot of what I do now. Learning new flavor profiles and spices is fascinating to me.
Q: What is some advice you would like to share with young culinarians?
A: Remain humble. Even though you learn a lot in culinary school, there are a multitude of things that are still to be learned when you get out. No one knows everything. Write down everything you can including techniques, recipes, spices, and things you have never heard of. Learn from those things.