Meet Sous Chef Drew Swanson

It’s long past time that we introduce to you Drew Swanson, our sous chef since summer and my right and left hand in the kitchen since October. Drew is a home-grown talent at Big Jones. He started work with us not long after our opening in August 2008 and has been a top contributor since the beginning. Drew left a successful sales career to return to the restaurant business and worked on his skills in a handful of restaurants before making the decision to pursue a culinary degree. He worked with us through culinary school and his talent and drive landed him where he is today.

You might find it interesting to know that when we do food photography at the restaurant, I almost always have Drew do the plating so his handiwork is all over our photo page and my blog. Since the first day of work here, Drew has been a key person for us, mastering station after station while bringing the ultimate skill to the kitchen daily — great energy and a will-do attitude. I am thrilled to be working with Drew at this stage in his career. Perhaps it’s the small Midwestern town upbringing we have in common, but our philosophies meld beautifully and our kitchen is stronger than ever and getting better every day. It’s a pleasure and honor to be able to work with people like Drew, they are rare.

A short bio:

Raised in a small Midwestern town where half of the population farmed and the other half sold farm equipment, many people’s career paths would be predetermined. Ultimately, it would play a huge part in who Sous Chef Drew Swanson became, but he chose a different career path.

At a young age, if Swanson wasn’t in school he was probably covered in dirt and bandages. To keep him out of trouble, his father would take him along on construction jobs, or his mother would bring him to the small restaurant she managed to portion fries and make ice cream. Here, Swanson had his first taste of the business.

After a job layoff at John Deere in the early 1990s, Swanson’s father chose to go to college and his small family went to live with his grandmother, who had designs on straightening the youngster up. It didn’t take long, and soon his regular frozen dinners and fast food lunches were replaced by Grandma’s food of love, and he quickly took to the kitchen to help. “Still some of my most vivid memories of childhood involved eating dinner at her large dining room table, which always concluded with a game of gin rummy. For the next four years, I lived with one of my preeminent mentors and learned not only about what each season brought, but what to do with the produce of our area.” These years are the driving force behind Swanson’s culinary ethic today.

After working restaurant jobs during school, Swanson went on to begin a successful career in sales but ultimately decided to return to the kitchen, working again in a small German restaurant in his home town. He enrolled in the Le Cordon Bleu program at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago in 2008. During culinary school, Swanson began working at Big Jones, and his career took off quickly.

Corey Fuller left Big Jones a better restaurant than he found it and we will always be grateful for his contribution here. He is now in New York City pursuing his career there. We’ll let you know where he lands. Corey was the right man at the right time for us and we will not forget the great strides we made with his help but just as importantly, the great times we had working with him.

Drew Swanson is the right man now and I look forward to working with him for a long time to come. We have some exciting things planned and some big announcements to make this year. Drew’s a force to be reckoned with, so we are glad he’s on our team!

Drew poses with a Carolina wreckfish before cutting it up