Hailing from Brooklyn, NY, Jerome “Spike” Williams was schooled during his teens at Park West Culinary, the largest culinary program of its kind in New York City, with 18 commercial kitchens, the same number of bakeries and enormous walk-in freezers and refrigerators. The school, with affiliate programs with the National Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation and the Hospitality Business Alliance, turns out nationally recognized, certified chefs skilled in front of the house and back office operations, in addition to knowing their way around a commercial kitchen as food artisans.
Following his completion of the program, Spike worked a number of NY establishments, including the Water Club, Annabelle’s and The Black Sheep, and then moved on to Seattle, where he became Sous Chef, Bombora. He left for sunnier Florida and stints at the Sun Coast Resort as Executive Chef, and the Black Opal, then landed in sunnier, drier Palm Springs as Executive Chef at Azul Tapas Lounge for a half dozen years. A move to Oakland’s Chopbar brought him north and a stint at Pacific Catch landed him in San Francisco. Spike then headed back to Oakland as Chef de Cuisine, Fusebox and then as Executive Chef at Picán.
We caught up with Spike while he was tending a simmering pot of She Crab soup in the kitchen.
“What I truly like about Plāyt as a chef is I’m able to explore any, and all, cuisines creatively. I grew up in a strong and very giving culinary environment, something many chefs today don’t get to experience.”
Surprisingly, Spike confesses he doesn’t have a particular “favorite” food, “I’ve worked in so many different styles and types of restaurants, but I do like combinations of flavors that turn into great surprises!”
When asked about the most perfect bite of food he’s ever tasted, he replied it would have to be the lobster squib surf and turf at the Ritz Carlton in Pentagon City, D.C. “I worked there for a bit with a French chef I had worked for in New York. The amazing part was the unexpected flavors, and what made it special is that I have never been able to replicate or find that elusive combination of flavors since. I had a shot of roasted carrot and parsnip bisque at a small place in New York. What made that taste memorable was it was the one thing that made me want to go into this crazy business!”
And one of the many, many reasons we love Chef Spike (and you will likely, too!)? “If you ever come into a place where I am the chef, you will most likely find a dish or dishes with the word Grandma in the name of the dish. Grandma’s Chicken or Grandma’s Bread Pudding or some derivation thereof … Nonni, Noni, Granmere. My grandma had a way with food, and when I could, as a kid, I really tried to impress her with simple things like a cheese omelet or chicken cordon bleu. She taught me a lot about food, so I consider her my inspiration in food, and in life.
“I feel like I am accomplishing now what I’ve always wanted to do – to be the chef in charge of several restaurants, pushing all of them forward with my style, vision, of cooking.“My #1 thing to do on my bucket list? Open restaurants in different parts of the world. I am a big fan of Asian cuisine and would really enjoy the challenge of bringing the taste of the South to the Philippines, or Hong Kong.
So what does he do when he’s not overseeing the kitchen and has some down time? “Movies … my favorite movie changes from time to time. I always come back to Singing in the Rain. But can switch to a film like A Face in the Crowd, or something funny like Deadpool or The Naked Gun. Like I said my mind changes from time to time.”
Spike is also an unabashed Star Wars “geek” … and a Trekkie. “These are titles I hold with pride.”