A Taste Of The Chef’s Life
Adam Ochs, the Executive Chef of The Hill at Whitemarsh, has fond memories of cooking with his mother as a child.
He felt so connected to the work they would do in the kitchen that he decided to take cooking classes when he was in high school. And by the time it came to attending college, he chose Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks to attend their renowned culinary and hospitality school. For Ochs, cooking was always an integral part of his life.
“I was hired by the Ritz Carlton in Washington, D.C. right after college, where I worked on banquets that could feed up to 700 people,” says Ochs. “I cooked for the Obamas and Margaret Thatcher, it was a pretty incredible experience.”
Eventually, Ochs needed a new challenge and a change of pace and decided to head west. He settled in Oakland, California and worked different events for Big City Chefs, a catering group who had their own Food Network show called “Private Chefs of Beverly Hills.”
“It was great. I did all different sorts of jobs for Big City Chefs — cooking demos, private parties, events, corporate team building experiences, and even food competitions,” Ochs says. “But I also still had one foot in the hospitality world. I was working part-time for Marriott Hotels in San Francisco, which is the city where I eventually met my wife.”
When Ochs and his wife decided that it was time to settle down, they moved back east to be closer to family. Although Ochs was ready for the next chapter in his life, he moved to Philadelphia without a job and without any real network to tap into.
“I literally went through Zagat to find the best restaurants in Philadelphia and applied blindly. Let’s just say it wasn’t the best method of finding a job,” Ochs says with a chuckle. “One afternoon my wife and I were driving past the Cricket Club and she suggested that I go in to see if they were hiring. I filled out an application and was hired on the spot!”
The Philadelphia Cricket Club—with three locations, all just a few miles from The Hill at Whitemarsh—is one of the finest private country clubs in America. The Cricket Club has a rich heritage as one of the nation’s first country clubs, having been founded in 1854. With a premiere golf course, tennis, squash, swimming, and Pickleball, the Cricket Club provides preeminent recreational and social experiences for its members, their families, and their friends.
Within a month, Ochs had become the Chef de Cuisine, running the restaurant at the Club’s St. Martins location. A short while later, Ochs was promoted to be the Chef at the Flourtown location, before ultimately returning to serve as the Executive Sous Chef at St. Martins.
“After the Cricket Club, I spent three years as the Executive Sous Chef at Huntingdon Valley Country Club before coming to The Hill,” says Ochs. “When The Hill reached out to me about serving as their Executive Chef I didn’t have to think very hard about whether or not to take the job. It’s a very natural fit for my background and skill set and the job was very appealing. It’s a high-end dining experience with high-quality standards, just like any other á la carte restaurant in Philadelphia.”
When he took over the kitchen for The Hill, one of Ochs’ main objectives was to raise the standards of dining, and although he’s achieved his goal, he is always striving for his kitchen to be better.
“I always try to keep all of us growing,” says Ochs. “Whether it’s through injecting more variety into our menus and products, or in how we train the staff, I really try to create a happy environment for everyone to be able to thrive.”
And that same attitude extends to the residents of The Hill as well.
“We have a Dining Advisory Committee comprised of residents that meets once a month. They give us some great feedback and we do a lot of listening. We always encourage resident feedback, and I walk the dining room frequently so that residents can talk to me about what’s on their mind regarding the food, or anything else. It’s really one of my favorite aspects about working here.”
Looking at 2020 and beyond, Ochs is focused on getting the new Hawk Ridge restaurant up and running, as well as getting more creative with the menus at the main Clubhouse at The Hill.
“Hawk Ridge has been such an exciting project for all of us to work on,” says Ochs. “I’m planning to use that momentum to not only provide new experiences in the new buildings, but also to reinvent our existing venues. I’ll be the Executive Chef for three different restaurants, and really have a startup mentality about it right now.”
Ochs notes that his approach to all three restaurants is not unlike the time he spent in the kitchen with his mom as a child.
“All of our menus feature simple food that can really speak for themselves. You don’t need a lot of heavy sauces and add-ons to make a big impact when it comes to taste. We focus on choosing the best ingredients for our residents so that it’s similar to home-cooked meals, only better.”