Tom Fournier makes Cilantro Lime Tilapia
A former professional chef with 25 years experience, Tom Fournier can't duck the cooking detail at home, and he really doesn't want to.
"I like to see smiling, satisfied faces and hear good comments," says Tom, of Hoffman Estates.
Cooking has been in his blood since he was in junior high working in the family's neighborhood bar in Buffalo, N.Y., where he stocked the liquor, grilled burgers and prepared sandwiches. Nothing fancy, but it was good experience.
In high school he enrolled in cooking classes, he says, "because, I use to get in trouble in study hall, flirting with girls and messing around."
Still, after graduation he planned to work with wood, not food, but carpentry schools were full, so he eventually drifted back to cooking.
"I trained under a German chef in Florida and went to culinary school for a while," says Tom.
Eventually he worked his way to the Chicago area where he has cooked for Medinah Country Club in Itasca and Riccardo's Restaurant & Pizzeria in Schaumburg.
He also was co-owner and chef for two Crystal Lake ventures, including Salt & Pepper Bistro.
"A commercial kitchen gets your blood going, gets you hyper," says Tom. "I liked the adrenaline."
But those restaurants didn't survive, so Tom has been working at Home Depot in Elk Grove Village for nine years, arriving home by early afternoon with time to cook dinner for his wife, Jeaninne.
"I used to create specials for both restaurants; I just loved it," says Tom. "I try to do that at home - I surprise my wife a lot - even though she doesn't always like what I make."
Tom pitches in for family events, too, like a party for a nephew who graduated boot camp and got married.
"I cooked a chicken Vesuvio type of dish, and pasta salad for 20," he says.
Hearty winter fare, like wienerschnitzel, lemon chicken over rice, chicken with pepper jelly, pork chops multiple ways and beef stew, is on his table now.
His favorite tools: a pair of tongs and his broad-bladed German, Henkel knife. "The thicker the better, the less you cut your fingers."
His favorite memory: an all-you-can-eat brunch buffet at the age of 5.
"It was elaborate - the first time I tried lobster and loving it," says Tom. "I was eating everything, it was decadent. It awakened my taste buds."
His dream: one more restaurant, a breakfast-lunch place because "that's easier."
"I miss it," he says. "I would go back if the right thing came along."