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Fresh Flavors, Fresh Approach

Tim Groody of Sonoma Bistro

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Tim Groody, the Executive Chef at Sonoma Bistro, is the fresh face of Charlotte cuisine with a culinary philosophy to match. Groody's commitment to buying fresh, organic produce from local markets has helped pave the way in bringing a larger selection of produce to Charlotte, and a fresher taste to gourmet cuisine.

Originally from Long Island, New York, Groody developed an interest in cooking at a young age from his father and enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.

After graduating from the CIA, Groody gained experience working with some of the most talented chefs in the United States. New York City chefs such as Jean-George Vongerichten at Restaurant Lafayette, John Doughrety at the Waldorf Astoria, and Daniel Boulud at Le Cirque helped Groody learn the art of food.

"One of my best memories is when I was in New York. It was when I was with Jean-George. We did a dinner right after Salvador Dali passed away, and there is a cookbook where all of his artwork is matched with recipes, so we did a dinner cooking out of that and just did really fun food. We did salmon that was shaped like a snail and foie gras that looked like a bloodshot eyeball, it was pretty intense," Groody said.

Groody's next set of learning experiences came in California's Napa Valley -- specifically, St. Helena -- where he worked as a Sous Chef at Meadowwood Resort. It was there that he mastered the pairing of wine and food -- and, importantly, realized that incorporating fresh produce into dishes was a key component in bringing out flavors. Through the popularity of the produce markets in California and the influences of persons like Alice Waters, world famous for using fresh, primarily organic produce, Groody began to form his cooking style.

His greatest inspiration, however, comes from Ben Barker, the award-winning Executive Chef and co-owner of Magnolia Grill in Durham, with whom Groody cooked after leaving California.

"Ben was the one who introduced me to the produce farmers in North Carolina. He's really personable and I've learned a lot from him. . .we have very similar cooking styles."

Groody brought his talent to Sonoma in 1999 and has been making his mark on Charlotte since.

"I am happy where I am...before I came to North Carolina, I had heard that Charlotte was rapidly growing and since I've been here, a lot more restaurants with known chefs are popping up."

Groody acquires about 90 percent of the restaurant's produce through Matthews Community Farmers' Market and the Charlotte Regional Farmers' Market.

"Cooking with fresh, organic produce is what gives you the full taste. It's not always about presentation, but about layering flavors, and if you put the two together, organic and non-organic, there is a difference."

Outside of the demands of the restaurant kitchen, Groody spends his time with his wife and his three children.

"When I cook at home I like to keep it simple. I like to grill and cook things that my son can help me with." Risotto is among one of Groody's favorites.

His six-year-old daughter, who was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when she was just 16 months old, is the inspiration for a cookbook Groody is developing focusing on the dietetic needs of those with the illness.

In addition to the book, as well as Groody's involvement with the Juvenile Diabetes Association, Sonoma holds an annual dinner to raise money for the cause. This year the dinner is October 17 at 6pm. Ticket cost is $175 per person, which includes a five-course meal.

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