Culinary Feature of the Month – Executive Sous Chef Wes Hood “Home Again” at AQUA by El Gaucho
We are excited to feature the talented people behind the scenes – those who create and prepare the tasty treats that we all get to enjoy in our restaurants. Each month we will be introducing you to the gifted and passionate individuals who make up our culinary team. Bon Appétit!
Meet Wesley Del Hood III, “Wes” – Executive Sous Chef
at AQUA by El Gaucho
“No matter how much one learns about food…there is always so much more to learn,” says Wes, who just returned to AQUA last month, where he started with El Gaucho over four years ago. “I have been continually inspired by the people, the chaotic-urgency of the dinner rush, the sights and smells of fresh ingredients, and the ways that cuisine can be artfully displayed.”
Wes’ passion for food and cooking started in high school, when at age 15, he began working washing dishes for a local restaurant. His dad would often tell him, “Whatever it is that you do, do it to the best of your ability. Also, don’t be a follower: if you and your friends are going to rob a bank, make sure you are the one planning and leading it.”
He took his dad’s advice to heart, and his work ethic and leadership were noticed: he was soon allowed to do everything in the kitchen –still attending high school – “because the chef was usually in jail,” he explains. After graduating from West Valley High School in Spokane, he joined the army and became a ranger at Fort Lewis. There he met his wife, and stayed in Seattle until she was out of the service; he worked two full time jobs, for both Meridian Restaurant and Classic Catering. After honing his skills in a few other local restaurant kitchens, including Maggie Bluffs and Scott’s Bar and Grill, he landed at Restaurants Unlimited and quickly worked his way to Sous Chef at Elliott’s Oyster House and Union Square Grill. After a successful five-year career with the company, when Union Square Grill closed its doors, Wes joined our AQUA team (at that time, Waterfront Seafood Grill), and assisted with the rebranding and transition to AQUA. In January 2012, he transferred to El Gaucho Bellevue as a Sous Chef, and just last month was asked to return to AQUA, as Executive Sous Chef. “It’s been a great homecoming, of sorts,” he says.
When he’s not grilling up some Copper River Salmon or shelling crab at work, he loves barbequing at home for his family, and is never deterred by the weather. His favorite is a medium rare NY Steak, grilled over live coals. Wes also couldn’t live without coffee, and items you’ll always find in his pantry at home are quite varied: smokehouse almonds, wasabi peas, mae ploy (Thai red curry paste), capers, and peanut butter.
His wife of 10 years, Elizabeth, and their two “brilliant and rambunctious boys,” Connor (5) and Ethan (3), are Wes’ pride and joy. He loves playing Legos or wrestling with his kids, solving puzzles like Sudoku, Cryptograms (“I’m a total nerd,” he says), and burning off steam by running. Lately, he’s been found watching episodes of “Burn Notice” and Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares.”
Wes admits one of his favorite things about working at AQUA is, “Quality. We buy the absolute best ingredients available. The quality of the people – to find such a tight-knit group of passionate professionals is truly rare. And, the view and ambiance in our restaurants is world class.”
If quality is a word used to describe our food and service, it’s certainly because of the quality of people like Wes on our team. Come in to see and taste for yourself the AQUA by El Gaucho difference.