Meet Chris Hawk, Cleveland transplant from Atlanta (via California) and new chef at the Great Lakes Science Center.
Hawk has worked in radiology and the music business. And he never went to culinary school. He’s self-taught and driven by experience.
The museum hired Hawk with Chicago-based Levy, which handles food and beverage for the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland. Levy started in October running the center’s catering operations and café on the lower level, which overlooks the lake at the William G. Mather steamship the center also runs. Hawk plans to transform the cafe, which may begin hosting happy hours on its expansive lakeside patio this summer.
Already, a new menu features items like a rustic grilled cheese with brie, spinach and tomato jam and a chicken sandwich with dill mayonnaise and bacon cole slaw.
Read on for what Hawk has to say about cooking and Cleveland.
How did you get started cooking?
While playing music in two separate bands and touring, I started working in restaurants and quickly recognized a strong connection between food and art.
Shortly after I started cooking, I got a job working for H. Lamar Thomas at East West Bistro in Athens, Georgia. There I started learning from Chef Lamar about the molecular structure and balance of each ingredient and why cooking was so much more of a science than an art.
I took the scientific look at cooking with me to my next positions, ultimately ending at Copper Creek Brewing Co. in Athens as executive chef.
After three years at the brew pub I started looking for other opportunities outside of Athens to grow my experiences. That was when I found Levy restaurants and joined the team at the Classic Center as senior sous chef. Shortly after joining the team I traveled across the country supporting high profile events from Boston to L.A.
At the beginning of 2016 I accepted a position as executive sous chef in Mammoth Lakes, California, at Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort. There I oversaw operations at a casual upscale cocktail restaurant that focused on house-made items paired with hand-crafted, high end cocktails.
In September 2017, I accepted the position as executive chef at Great Lakes Science Center, eager to bring my love for food, art and science together.
What did you think of Cleveland before you arrived?
Cleveland is known for its love of rock ‘n’ roll and its love for locally sourced ingredients. As a musician and chef, I couldn’t think of a better place to put down roots and start my next culinary journey.
Now what’s your take?
Cleveland is just what I imagined. Full of culture, inspiration and hospitality. So much soul and inspiration but at a humble and welcoming level.
How does Lake Erie figure into your goals for the Science Center cafe?
At the moment figuring out how to make it a warm and inviting environment next to one of the coldest places I’ve been. (Kidding!)
You found an apartment near the lake, was that on purpose? What kind of water activities do you enjoy?
Actually, it was not. Before I arrived in Cleveland I had no clue where I wanted to live. I found a place in Rocky River and loved the small town aspect of the neighborhood where people walked and biked to their local restaurant or bakery.
As far as water activities, any that involve sitting next to it with a cold Moscow mule.
Can you detail one experience that sums up your experience in Cleveland so far?
Joining the team at the Science Center. It was such a quick move for me personally from California to Cleveland. I flew out at the end of August to meet everyone at the Science Center. Then, two weeks later Darryl (my cat/national travel buddy) and I were in the car headed to Ohio. While I was only in Cleveland for a short time in August, the team at the Science Center was so welcoming it already seemed like a new home. When Darryl and I arrived in Cleveland everyone was eager to help suggest places to live, places to eat and places to just simply enjoy Cleveland.