Jonathan Hawks began his cooking career at a young age working in various restaurants throughout the Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia area.
He came to Charleston to attend Johnson & Wales University, where he received his culinary arts degree. He has worked at high-end establishments in the United States and abroad, and for the past eight months, he has been at Med Bistro. Hawks adheres to a "Fresh on the Menu" program, using fresh, local ingredients as his inspiration.
Q: What's your first food memory?
A: My first food memory is of my grandmother and I working on her spaghetti sauce. I was about 7 to 8 years old, and I was fascinated with the idea of cooking.
Q: What do you cook at home?
A: If I'm cooking for myself, it's nothing spectacular. Usually I do a simple pasta dish or a nice steak on the grill. I've just recently gotten into curing and making my own sausages and forcemeats.
Q: What mistakes do you see home cooks make?
A: I think the biggest advice I would give to people learning to cook at home is to be adventurous. Following a recipe is a good start, but putting your own creative twist on a recipe has a very satisfying aspect to it. Sure, it can go the other way and be terrible, but you will never know unless you try.
Q: What's your favorite cookbook?
A: "Culinary Artistry" by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page. It was the first book I ever read about cooking.
Q: What's your signature dish?
A: I make a mean gnocchi!
Q: What made you decide to become a chef?
A: When I was 14, I worked in a bagel shop in the D.C. area. My first day, I arrived at 4:30 a.m. and learned how to cook the bagels. I got so many burns over my forearms trying the flip the bagels in a rotating deck oven. When I came home that day, my mother wanted to call the child labor law department on my employer. I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
Q: Favorite kitchen gadget?
A: Has to be my black, left-handed wooden spoon. I can't caramelize vegetables without it!
Q: What do you think is your greatest accomplishment as a chef?
A: I feel that day is soon to come although graduating from culinary school was a proud moment.
Q: Who is your favorite chef outside Charleston?
A: I'm a big fan of Terrance Brennan. He is the owner/chef of Picholine and Artisanal in New York. His devotion to cheese makes him and I alike.
Q: Who is your favorite Charleston chef?
A: I really like what Mike Lata does at FIG. His approach to food is very inviting, and every time I go there, the food is better than the last.