About Joey Schnople
I love to cook because I love the way ingredients come together, and evolve, and play with one another, to create flavors both new and familiar. My first experience with food was working at Fowler's Gourmet in Durham, NC, in 1987. Fowlers had it all - authentic Rugelach for the NY expats, Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, Cel-Ray soda, funky mustards, bottles of Chateau Lafite, cranky old butchers who told stories about seeing Jimi Hendrix set his guitar on fire, bored graduate students selling duck pate, a little Italian guy in produce who tended to the souls of the green peppers. I was in high school and couldn't even make potato salad, but I was hooked. The range of flavors and textures, the varieties and origins of everything there, it was magic. And you could eat it. I went on to do some catering, to manage the front of the house for several small cafes, and to cook as much as I could. My first dish was a rice pilaf that was 100% inedible. My second was a Senegalese seafood stew from the Sundays at Moosewood cookbook that was about 92% inedible. But I kept at it, and I learned. I learned to take my time. I learned to use the right sized pot. I learned about time and temperature, and the interplay of spices, and the raw and the cooked and the fermentedly funky. Some time after that, although I kept cooking and learning at home, I wandered off to the safer world of suits and business meetings....but it never really was for me. My first foray back was in 2008, when my wife and I opened a chocolate shop in Hickory, NC - The Chocolate Lab. We made our own infusions for ganache with rosemary and lavender. Mendiants with white chocolate, pistachio, saffron, and honey. White chocolate, tequila, and lime zest. Dark chocolate, cinnamon, and cardamom. We learned to roast our own coffee and to make bitters for drinking chocolate. I took a Sommelier Course at the Culinary Institute of America to beef up my wine knowledge, and led chocolate pairing events with wine and beer. Dopplebock with handmade caramel, bacon, black pepper dark chocolate, and crispy waffle. Delicious... That was probably my favorite part of the business - presenting for and talking with people about food, sharing their stories, watching their faces light up with delight at new and unexpected combinations. It was exhilarating. While the shop has closed, I've kept a leg in that end of life. I teach classes in chocolate making and history, wine and beer pairing with confections. I teach a course on the history of beverages, based on A History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage. I also continue to cook. I helped start up and am a prep cook, line cook and expediter for Root Down, a NC based food truck specializing in Creole, Cajun, and Southern cuisine. A few favorites include Three Legged Gumbo with Duck, Rabbit, and Turkey; Rabbit Confit; Boudin Balls; Pecan Smoked Pulled Pork and Housemade Pimento Cheese Sandwiches; House-made Watermelon Rind Pickles. I'm also cooking small plates for evening service at a local bakehouse - striped bass veracruz, beef medallions with duck fat seared potatoes, grouper with fresh corn and marjoram relish. Somewhat different from the truck food, but also very good, with a focus on fresh and local. I travel as often as I can, and when I do, I go to markets like most people go to the museums. We went to Paris in November, and my first stop wasn't the Louvre, it was Marché d'Aligre. I also love to eat it all. Picnic tables at chaotic markets in Bali, train food in India, cuy (that's guinea pig) in South America, oysters roasted under a sheet of tin in South Carolina. I love the fancy places too, of course - Septime in Paris is probably my favorite, with Per Se as a close second, but I really do love it all. So, I'm here because this is what I love, and I want to share it with people who also love it. That's about it.