Tom Gloster is a nice guy.
Barrel chested and soft spoken. He’s a teddy bear of a man. One of those people that everyone likes. Ask around, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone that has anything negative to say about him.
Tom is also a chef.
An award-winning, world-renowned chef.
He’s been on television and everything.
Which I guess is the benchmark for success these days.
But don’t ask Tom…I mean, Chef Tom about that.
He couldn’t care less.
Tom Gloster is a Chef in the true sense of the word.
Not a Bobby Flay/Guy Fieri grillmaster plus carnival barker hybrid.
Tom…*ahem*…excuse me, CHEF Tom’s passion lies in the simple art of cooking.
And much like design – be that print, digital, online or traditional, the beauty lies in the subtlety.
It’s this eye and this passion that has earned Chef Tom the respect of his peers.
And this respect was never more evident then when I was asked to conduct a photo shoot at Chef Tom’s new restaurant, Rustic Root in Woodbury, New York.
…but more on that in a moment.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve known Tom long before he was Chef Tom.
He and I have worked together, in one form or another for several years.
I knew him when he was a line cook.
I knew him when he was a sous chef in training.
And now I have the pleasure of knowing him in his role as Executive Chef.
A well deserved and much respected position.
One that I was not quite ready for or appreciative of, before this assignment.
Allow me to get all metaphorical up in here for a moment.
People are like the wands in Harry Potter.
…no, wait…too esoteric…
People are made up of many different things, but deep down everyone has a core.
And that core is not many things. In fact, that core is one specific thing.
Tom’s core is Chef. It’s what drives him.
My core is artist.
Same as my father.
Same as his father.
And because my core is art and artist, I think I lack the ability to truly appreciate “nobility” when I see it. Not in a dismissive or disrespectful way. Just in a 70’s laid back “Hey man, that’s cool” kind of way. It’s not a pro or a con. It just is.
So when I walked into Rustic Root with my cameras and my lighting rig and my jeans and t-shirt and worn out flip flops and proceeded to give Tom a big old hug followed by a “How the hell are you buddy?”, the black hole of disrespect I inadvertently created was strong enough to suck out all the air and my credibility right along with it.
I don’t think anyone on staff, including any of the other cooks, made a sound for a full 3 minutes. Even Tom seemed stunned.
Of course, I was completely oblivious to the egregious nature of my faux pas.
Yes, Tom is a friend.
But Tom was at work.
And when he’s wearing his black chef coat and black denim Boulder chef apron, Tom is in charge.
Still totally unaware, I took a few steps back and began to set up my equipment.
Taking some test shots trying to figure out a battle plan for the assignment at hand.
What to shoot…what angles…what to hide…what to accentuate. All the last minute decisions you have to make on set.
it was then that I finally got a chance to watch Chef Tom work and witness first hand the respect that he commands.
Every call from the kitchen was preceded by the title “Chef”.
Every answer was punctuated by “Chef”.
“Jacob, this sauce needs more oil.”
“Where is the pasta for ticket 7?”
“I need someone to filet these cuts.”
“I’ll do it Chef.”
The call and response was almost militaristic. But not aggressive or confrontational. Not even intimidating.
This was a General leading an army of troops that hung on his words. Not out of fear, but out of love. Out of respect.
He never raised his voice. He was never short or quick to anger.
He was the same Tom I’ve known for years.
Teddy Bear Tom. Nice Guy Tom….you know..Tom!
But he was more then that now.
Now he was Chef.
And the kitchen was his home. It had become an extension of his person.
It yielded to his will, it bent at his call and it did what he asked without hesitation.
For someone like myself, someone with that “artists core”, it was sheer magic.
This was the Sorcerer’s Apprentice come to life.
When all was said and done, after all the pictures had been taken and the equipment put away and after I said my goodbyes to everyone involved, I pulled Tom aside.
I told him how great it was to finally see him in his element and how absolutely spellbound I was to watch him work. I also apologized for not following procedure or understanding protocol in regards to his title. He gave me a hug and said “Oh man, no worries. It’s totally fine.”
We chatted for a little while longer…”how’s your wife?”….”how are the kids?”….small talk kind of stuff. When I was finally ready to leave, I shook his hand one final time and said, “I’ll see you around Tom”.
I was two steps away from the door when I heard that unmistakable voice “Hey Mike…”
I turned around to see Tom standing in front of his crew, arms folded across his barrel chest, “It’s CHEF Tom”.
With a red face and a sorry gaze, my humble reply was a contrite, “Yes Chef.”
– Michael Versandi
Chef Thomas Gloster
Chef Tom is a Food Network Chopped Champion, and has many years of experience in the restaurant business. His mastery of local cuisine, is inspired by a childhood spent at markets and farms from Little Italy, through the east end of Long Island, and into the Hudson Valley and the Upstate New York community.
His menu for Rustic Root Kitchen spotlights New American cuisine, thoughtfully prepared with a focus on local ingredients and creative twists.
His deep and diverse industry experience has led him to wide acclaim not only from critics and media, but also from his colleagues. In fact, his true passion lies in inspiring local chefs to evolve beyond the walls of their respective restaurants to help put Long Island on the map as a true culinary destination.