Culinary Feature of the Month – AQUA by El Gaucho Sous Chef Eric Ludwig
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 Eric Ludwig, Sous Chef at AQUA by El Gaucho
Cooking is at once one of the simplest and most gratifying of the arts, but to cook well one must love and respect food.-Craig Claiborne
Being creative and trying new things is what led Eric to the culinary arts. Growing up in the small town of Drake, North Dakota, Eric attended College of Bismarck State for Graphic Design. After graduating and holding down a few jobs in the field, he and a college friend opened up their own graphic design business. To make ends meet, he worked as a server at night, but drifted to the “back of the house,” (industry lingo for the kitchen). There, he learned his love for food and cooking and decided to pursue it. He sold his share of the business to his partner and started his journey to becoming a professional chef.
After spending a few years building on experience, he moved to Washington state and was hired by fellow Midwesterner, and now El Gaucho Seattle Executive Chef Matt Brandsey, at Sea Grill in Tacoma. He moved to the AQUA team in March of 2009 and has worked every single station from pastry, prep, pantry, sauté, broiler, and expo. He was promoted to Sous Chef earlier this year.
Eric has the same attitude when cooking at home – he loves branching out with new recipes and making new things. His pantry is always stocked with Sriracha, EVOO, pastas, garlic and Gaucho Seasoning. It’s no surprise that with those ingredients he loves Italian and Mediterranean food. When he’s not cooking, he enjoys all things sports: he’s a huge Packers fan, fantasy football, loves the Mariners, going to concerts, hanging out with friends in the great outdoors. His favorite place to hang out is “anywhere by the water.” Good thing AQUA is by the water, since most of his time these days is at the restaurant. “I love the staff at AQUA. There are so many personalities and backgrounds and everyone is great to work with,” he explains.
“My favorite part of working at AQUA is that no two days are the same,” Eric says. “There’s always something new to learn or new dish to try. It’s always something different.”
Eric has also been a major part of AQUA donating and serving lunch once a month to the homeless at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission (UGM). El Gaucho Hospitality was awarded the National Restaurant Association’s Good Neighbor award earlier this year because of their charity work with UGM.
“The work with UGM over the last few years has been really rewarding,” he said.
Sivi Mennen, AQUA’s General Manager, says, “Eric has been part of the team serving monthly at UGM for several years. He takes such pride in serving at the men’s shelter; preparing the meal and inspecting the plates before they are served, just as he does at the restaurant.
Many staff members volunteer several times a year, but Eric is there every single time, sharing big smiles and kind words. He’s truly a leader in our efforts and an example for all of us.”
We can’t sum it up better than that! We’re grateful to have great people on our team, like Eric, who are passionate and cheerfully give back to others.