By Robby Osborne
A series on NoVA chefs who have made kitchen life their next career.
For over the past 30 years, Rick Mealy worked for many different start-ups with his most recent position as the director of business development at WWPass, a high-end internet security start-up company based in Manchester, N.H. specialized in protecting internet financial transactions. Mealy’s lengthy commute consisted of traveling to Manchester every Monday and flying back to his home in Clifton every Thursday. No longer. He now works in his own town, as charcuterie chef for Trattoria Villagio.
NVM: What prompted the switch from a suit and tie, to the chef’s hat?
RM: I have always loved cooking. I have always enjoyed cooking. I am halfway through creating a cookbook that would be internet-based. Cooking has always been the thing that made me feel good. I would come home from a 12-hour day and what I wanted to do was make dinner for my family. I was wrapping up with my company, my contract was coming to an end, and I thought: “I don’t want to do this anymore. I am sick and tired of dealing with the corporate world and I really want to do something that’s fun.” And I flat out quit. My wife was very much supportive of it. This job that I came across right here in Clifton popped up within three days of making that decision and I was hired two days after that.
What was the hiring process like?
The actual advertisement said “Walk-Ins only, no resumes to be sent.” I was the first person to come in for an interview. My wife saw the advertisement on Craigslist on a Sunday, and I came in on Monday. I took my resume that covered 37 years of corporate development: VP here, VP there, and I thought “This isn’t going to work for a restaurant,” so I whacked my resume down to about six inches on the first page.
[In the interview] I talked about my love of cooking and about my great kitchen skills. I have a knowledge of food. I’ve managed a bar, albeit in 1972. I took that resume, handed to them and they were very confused. They chewed on it for a while and I talked with the chef. The next day the managing partner called me and wanted me to come down and talk. He offered me the charcuterie chef’s job. I was absolutely astounded.
What do you do as the charcuterie chef?
I am a bartender of meat and cheese. I am out in the front in the small part of the “L” in the bar and I’ve got four seats at my bar. People come up there and they can sit, eat cheese, drink wine and can spend the entire meal at my place in the bar. I’m talking to them, talking about the cheese. They watch me put together the platters. I am teaching them about the foods, about the meats and the cheeses.
It took me about two weeks of study to look up and study what all these cheeses were: What’s sheep, what’s goat, what’s cow. How’s it produced? How’s it made? How’s it aged? So everything is a story and you give everything a background. It’s an educative process and people just eat it up. I am having a ball doing it. I have a cheese right now that’s literally wrapped in the ashes of the herdsmen’s fire.
Are you busier now?
I work my ass off. I was flying back and forth to Manchester and before that when I was at Sprint I covered the entire country. I flew all over the place for that. I was sitting a lot. I’d either be sitting in a plane or sitting in my office and everything I did was in my head. Now I stand. Yesterday I stood for 12 hours straight. I was working on the line prepping all the food for the pizzeria. I tell ya, it feels nice when you get into the car that first night with the audible groan: “Oh my god that feels great.”
I’m not doing a lot of the head work I used it, it’s physical work. Physical work that’s fun. I’m working about 60 hours a week on average, more hours than I’ve ever worked. My job has always been my life, and now my life kind of is my job. / Tratorria Villagio, 7145 Main Street, Clifton
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