In Culinary | By Valerie Howes | July 4, 2022

Chef Timothy Charles gets candid in Salty Magazine

In Salty magazine the world’s leading chefs get candid about their culinary careers, including those moments that have more in common with pan fires then perfect souffles. For this issue, Timothy Charles was invited to share his 10-year journey at Fogo Island Inn, rising from Sous-Chef to Executive Chef. We’re thrilled to share an excerpt here and invite you to read the full story over at Salty.  
I remember one of our cooks saying their goodbyes after a stint at Fogo Island Inn. Our Innkeeper, Zita Cobb, responded: “This place is knit into you now.”  

That resonated for me: it’s a turn of phrase rich in relevance to Fogo Island—where so much is made by hand and bears the mark of the individual and of a 400-year-old community. Intertwining ourselves with the people, culture, and natural world around us is how we thrive on this wind-beaten rock, in the middle of the North Atlantic.  

I came to work for Fogo Island Inn as a sous-chef, in 2012, while our 29-room Inn was still under construction. Many people I’ve met here have profoundly shaped how we do things in our kitchen today and how I lead as our Executive Chef.  

In my first year, we were developing menus and training local people as cooks, many of whom had never worked a day in a kitchen. Other than a few mom-and-pop places, the first fine-dining restaurant appeared around 2010, so the arrival of the Inn was a huge shift for the community. Career cooks “from away” like me had to learn to slow down, demonstrate skills and techniques with patience, and listen—because community is at the core of our existence.  

A decade later, several local team members from that time are still at the Inn, in leadership roles. Among them there’s JR Coffin, a former fish-processing-plant-worker-cum-meat cutter, who runs our food-production warehouse. There’s Nicole Brown, our Pastry Sous-Chef, who came home to Fogo Island and is raising her daughter, surrounded by family. And there’s Paul Donahue, who returned to his childhood community after 20 years away, to work with our team. 

A principal ambition of our work has been to help grow the island’s population. The collapse of the inshore cod fishery decimated the population from around 6,000 to 2,300 over the past 50 years. While our fishers fared better here than elsewhere in outport Newfoundland by forming a fishing cooperative, tourism creates a valuable new leg to our local economy, easing the pressure on a single industry to provide for all. Fogo Island Inn and regenerative tourism have created myriad career options. When people find their way back home to live and work on Fogo Island, it’s the most validating outcome of everything we do.  

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