When Angelo Loria enrolled in Macomb’s Culinary Arts program, he had already earned a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from Oakland University (OU) and had worked for 10 years at Ford Motor Company.
“I started at Ford when I was still going to OU,” said Loria, who graduated from Henry Ford II High School in 1994. “But it just wasn’t the right fit. I had no passion for what I was doing.”
Loria, now executive chef at Vince and Joe’s Gourmet Markets, grew up in a Sicilian household where food was the centerpiece of family life. Today, he makes regular visits to his poultry supplier in Ohio and is proud that when corn is in season, it’s still warm when it arrives on the loading dock from local fields. On Sundays, his day off, he loves nothing more than engaging his children (ages 2, 4 and 6) in making an apple crostata a batch of red sauce.
“Cooking,” says Loria, “has always been in my blood.”
Transforming that passion into a marketable skill, however, required long hours and hard work. He studied pastry arts and restaurant management at Macomb, where, he says, “The chefs set us up to succeed with the right amounts of passion and focus.” When students were asked to volunteer to help prepare food for the golfers competing in the 2008 PGA Tournament at the Oakland Hills Country Club, Loria quickly signed up. That would lead to his first professional culinary job as a prep cook at the country club, after Chef O’Farrell of Macomb’s Culinary Arts faculty put in a good word for him.
“If it wasn’t for that first big break, says Loria, “I would probably still be at Ford.”
Loria progressed through several chef’s positions, eventually becoming the country club’s executive chef. But the hours were long and some nights, he offers, “I slept in the locker room.” So when his wife Rosalee found him a new job, as executive chef at the Fox Theatre, he was more than happy to accept.
“The Ilitch’s personal chef was my direct boss,” relates Loria, who assisted with all the Olympia entertainment events. From there, he went to the Grosse Pointe War Memorial, where he oversaw a revamping of both the menu and the banquet facilities. This allowed him to use all the skills he had amassed in cooking, catering, beverage management and purchasing and, he says, “It was a great experience.” He might still be there if Vince and Joe’s hadn’t offered him a job, not once but twice, until he accepted.
That was nearly four years ago and Loria is still excited that, “I get to cook for a living.”
Loria oversees the preparation of all takeaway dishes sold at the markets. He supervises wine tastings, special events and offsite catering, and manages social media. And he can often be found helping a customer find that just right something for the evening meal or sifting through papers in his office for a recipe to share. And does the executive chef have his own favorite?
“My favorite thing to cook,” says Loria, “is the next thing.”