I could say that Will Thoms was the 1st chef to see potential in me, and invest his time into expanding my knowledge. Preparing me for the next level, I used to drive to his house in Highland with Aaron Dias to hang out, watch wrestling & learn how to make the next mother sauce. Will & his wife, Carla went out of their way to be hospitable, providing us dinner every night we would show. We were young and oblivious to the idea of helping with the cost of all those pork steaks, free-loading our way to the next class, and even TP'ing his house (it was totally Aaron & I, Carla).
Most people knew him for his jolly laugh (think Horatio Sans) & his strange way of always being able to squeeze through the cook line, regardless of his size. Through all our tough times at Pepper's Dining Company in O'Fallon, IL, he stuck with me, called me out when I dropped the ball, and gave me confidence (though some would call it arrogance) to get to the next level.
Tragically, Will passed away in September of this year. I had only recently begun to rekindle my relationship with Will before it happened. I had high hopes of inviting him to my 1st-ever restaurant "soft-opening" to show him how his investment paid off.
As I type this, I'm cracking open a PBR for you, old friend. Miss you, big guy.