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Kitchen Cultures

Local chef looks everywhere for culinary inspiration


Executive Chef John Blumreich of Carpe Diem maintains an approach to life, particularly to cooking, that is no less than inspirational. "If I can visualize something, then I can make it happen," said Blumreich.

Blumreich's approach to cooking is one in which he explores the cuisine of different cultures and relies on a sense of innovation and variety. He attributes much of this passion for variation and culinary exploration to a European upbringing.

"I like incorporating foods from different cultures, different countries and different cuisine styles and presenting them in a way that the American palate would accept. Trying to fuse, but fusing different cultures together."

Raised in Weybridge, England, until the age of eight, Blumreich was first exposed to cooking through his neighbor, "Mrs. Case."

"She was this little old Scottish lady. My first encounter with her was terrifying after she yelled at me out her window, but she then used to invite me over all the time to help her cook for her husband."

Blumreich then moved to Germany, where his education in various types of cuisine continued. "I lived with a German family, and I ate what they ate. One day, I asked for a sandwich and the lady of the house made me a ham sandwich and she slathered it with butter. I was eating the sandwich at school and was like, this isn't mayonnaise! But it was exciting because it became a challenge trying something new everywhere I went."

John attended high school in New Jersey and continued his education at the University of South Florida in Tampa. There, he pursued a degree in German education and music, specifically vocal performance.

Although Blumreich had a passion for singing, his passion for cooking always seemed to linger. Throughout college, John worked in the kitchen for Burns Steakhouse, where the many facets of fine dining left an impression.

"What I like about fine dining is that people come with expectations. Every restaurant has its niche. I think if you come with the expectation that you're going to enjoy the meal, then you're going to come and enjoy the experience. For me, the experience has a lot to do with it."

For John, his decision to go to culinary school after college was a risk.

"I was originally going to end up with a German education, but there were certain aspects about it that I did like and certain aspects that just weren't me. I just couldn't get away from the influence of jobs that I'd had in the cooking industry."

Shortly after college, Blumreich got married and it was after a honeymoon in Vermont that he decided that New England Culinary School was the next step in following his heart.

"My wife and I packed up and left Tampa with $2,000 and a truck. We didn't have an apartment and I had not even been officially accepted. It was just a move of faith."

One of John's greatest memories in the cooking industry came while in cooking school. "I was taking a catering class and we were responsible for Sunday brunch. And we did everything from pate en croute to ice sculptures. They did it every Sunday, so it wasn't that big of a thing, but to me it was so special because it included such a broad spectrum of foods. It was such a classy, sophisticated display and it was done strictly by the students."

After stints with Tanglewood's and The Red Hen Baking Company, Blumreich began looking for something else. In 2000, John made another move of faith; this time, it was to Carpe Diem.

Five years later, Blumreich is still preparing food that turns eating into a dining experience.

When not in the kitchen, Blumreich enjoys spending time with his wife and his three-year-old daughter. As far as plans for the future, Blumreich states, "I would love to own my own restaurant one day, but I'm happy where I am right now. I still have so more much to learn."

Carpe Diem is located at 1535 Elizabeth Ave., 704-377-7976. Open for dinner Monday through Thursday from 5pm to 10pm, and on Friday and Saturday from 5pm to 11pm.

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