Interview by Sarah Shumick
Angela Allison’s culinary journey began at a small pizza shop in Hartville, Ohio, where she worked for ten years under an Italian owner who cooked from scratch. Years later and after some more formal training in baking and pastry arts as well as culinary school, Allison now serves as Executive Chef at Vine + Forge, the Crowne Plaza Columbus-Downtown’s newest restaurant. Allison is inspired by the people and energy that went into the development of Vine + Forge’s menu, something she had a hand in creating. She credits her success to the support of her wife, children and friends.
Give us a snapshot of your career path as a chef (how did you get to where you are today):
It all began at a pizza shop in Hartville, Ohio, folding boxes to work my way up to the kitchen. When I finally got the chance to work in the kitchen, I stayed there for ten years learning everything I could under the guidance of a scratch cooking owner from Italy, Carlos. I relocated to Columbus in 2009 when I started working with Giant Eagle in their Bakery Department. I fell in love with the art, so I continued with this real-life experience as I began attending classes to become certified in baking and pastry arts. I decided to further my education at this point by enrolling in the Culinary Program at Columbus State Community College. I started at the Crowne Plaza in 2013 as a banquet prep cook. I wore many hats as I worked my way from prep cook to Sous Chef and finally to Executive Chef. Giving me the opportunity to experience many dining styles, cooking styles and ideals that inspired my development of the menu for Vine + Forge.
Tell us about IHG’s restaurant, Vine + Forge. What do you want us to know?
Vine + Forge was developed by some of the most creative people I have ever had the pleasure to collaborate with, thus far in my career. To be honest, Vine + Forge, you can’t go wrong. Come in for a hand-crafted cocktail and watch our mixologist work, a romantic meal with your special someone for a fine dining experience, join a group of colleges for a meeting or even sit solo after a long day. Vine + Forge offers an experience.
What gets you up in the morning? And what gets you through the workweek?
Easy. My family. My wife and kids support me every day. It isn’t easy to have a family, participate as parents of two very active children and both maintain careers. Especially keepin the hours of a chef!
What advice or mentors have helped guide you along the way?
“A day that you don’t learn anything is a wasted day” – Harold Ickes, my grandfather
I carry that thought with me in life. I enjoy the opportunity to work with different chefs at all levels, from being home in my kitchen with friends to working with executive chefs from different backgrounds. I try to gain as much exposure as I can related to timing, techniques, recipes and cultures that can only develop my skills.
Talk about some of your work-life balance challenges. How do you achieve success in spite of the hustle and bustle?
Honestly, sometimes I don’t. Being a chef and having a passion for food means feeding people all day, every day! My success comes from the support and encouragement of my wife, kids and friends. I won’t pretend it is easy because it isn’t. However, my passion and love for what I create drives me to make it work every day. To participate fully in what I do. I am grateful that I have the support team I do to make every day happen.
What do you do or where do you go to unwind?
My best moments are spent surrounded by my family and friends. I love to spend time on our land with a bonfire, food and good drinks.
When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
A Marine Biologist! That became a bit difficult living in a state with no oceans. Obviously, things change over the years.
What are among the top places you’d recommend to someone who is visiting or new to Columbus?
That really depends on their scene. So many options! The Columbus Museum of Art, Franklin Park Conservatory and COSI are some of my go-to places. I will always say to support local! Spend time in the Short North, shop, gallery hop and seek out what the city has created. When I am out in downtown Columbus you can catch me eating Dirty Franks, Hound Dogs or hitting up Mikey’s late-night slice!
If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them?
The “Pulse” is the heartbeat of Columbus. We are the pulse.