Executive Chef Zach Allman
Tula’s Off Main
311 Gay Street
By Chester Simpson
When did you first become interested in cooking and why did you decide to pursue a culinary career?
When I was in middle school I had a teacher who had been in a car accident. One day she started talking about her struggles after the accident and the one thing I remember her saying was “if you have nothing else to live for, live for food because you’ll never try everything”. That stuck with me and as soon as I graduated I started down the path of learning how to cook. I started working for a couple of years at a deli to learn basic knife skills, then at a local grill where I really learned how to cook and eventually made it my career.
Who have been the biggest inspirations for your career?
My family has always supported me, whether it’s trying a new menu idea for me or giving me the criticism needed to make something better. Also Chef Thomas Nash at the Thornton River Grille in Sperryville, VA. He taught me the majority of what I needed to know to be an excellent chef.
What dish on your menu are you most curious to see how it’s received?
For the spring menu I’m writing I’m curious how the quinoa stir fry will be received. It’s the first time we have had quinoa on the menu and it’ll be interesting to hear people’s thoughts on the dish.
What do you do to ensure that the food going out to customers is of high quality?
I make sure that all of our food comes in fresh and in season. I also make sure the kitchen is properly deep cleaned and that all the cooks know the proper way to prepare the dishes. For the spring menu, I get locally grown chicken and sausage from Whiffletree Farms and fresh produce from Goat Hill Farms. I also get the best heirloom tomatoes grown by John Jenkins, which are the best tomatoes I’ve tasted.
If any chef in the world could prepare you a meal, who would it be?
I used to watch Alton Brown on Food Network a lot earlier in my cooking career. He explained a lot of the science behind how the food works when cooking it so I think a meal prepared by him would be pretty interesting. He appears regularly as the resident food historian, scientist and commentator on the Food Network series Iron Chef America, and is the host/judge on the reality series Next Iron Chef.
What’s your guilty food pleasure?
As much as I enjoy to cook I can never pass up a good burger.
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