“I stare at people's grocery carts to figure out what it says about them.”
Chef Bill Fuller can find inspiration anywhere, from a stranger's shopping list to a Mayan barbeque in the Yucatan Peninsula. This ability has proved quite useful during his time as big Burrito's Corporate Chef. After setting an early example for Pittsburgh’s nascent dining scene in the late 90s, Bill’s inventive approach has aided in the success of 6 concepts in Pittsburgh, with Mad Mex spanning 14 locations from Columbus to Philadelphia.
Considering a childhood that was hardly culinary inspired –“My mom could barely make an edible meatloaf” - one may wonder about the origins of Bill’s passion. “My teachers were hippies and beatniks,” he explains and credits Kerouac and Dylan as his initial influences. Hitchhiking from his hometown of Dubois, PA at 18 to venture the country, Bill settled in D.C. as a line cook while studying for his B.S. in Chemistry at George Mason University. Upon graduation, he entered the Ph.D. program at the University of California, Berkeley, to study Synthetic Bio-Inorganic Chemistry.
He eventually abandoned his scientific pursuits, trading his lab coat for a chef's jacket. Bill then made his way back to Pittsburgh and into the kitchens of big Burrito restaurants where he has served as the Corporate Chef since 1997.
Putting his community and local farmers first, Bill is dedicated to giving back. He is a supporter of Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance and Grow Pittsburgh as well as an avid volunteer with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. You can find him working alongside students in the Cooking Club at Obama Academy and preparing meals with a message for Repair the World: Pittsburgh. Bill is also an advisory board member for Sustainable Pittsburgh and No Kid Hungry. In addition to Bill’s charitable efforts, big Burrito restaurants host nearly 70 benefit dinners per year which raise around $200,000 annually for local organizations.
Robby Lucas was born in Toledo, Ohio and then moved to Put-In-Bay year round with his father. Robby’s dad was the General Manager of a high volume seafood and steak restaurant called Tipper’s. At the age of seven Robby started bussing tables and doing dish at his fathers’ restaurant, by the age of eleven he was working on the line and doing prep work. When Robby turned sixteen he start to take more of leadership role in the kitchen and became one of the head line cooks. In total he work at his fathers’ restaurant from the age of seven until he graduated from high school at the age of eighteen. So it’s safe to say that cooking is in his blood.
After graduating and moving from Put-In-Bay, Robby then took a position as a Sous Chef with Fifi’s Restaurant in Toledo, Ohio. Fifi’s Restaurant was at the time the premier fine dining restaurant in the Toledo area. While working at Fifi’s Robby was able to concentrate on French fundamentals and more classical technique. Robby’s next position was with the Put-In-Bay Brewing Company where he worked as the General Manager and help develop a strong brewing program and a from scratch kitchen. After doing some private chef-ing, Robby then joined Johnny’s Downtown where he worked as the Chef de Cuisine. While at Johnny’s Robby found himself back in the fine dining world. Under the tutelage of Chef Rob Records, Robby was able to focus on classical techniques while developing is own voice on special menus and tasting events. After Johnny’s, Robby started a consulting business called Bacon & Basil that focused on teaching from scratch cooking to all sorts of customers both commercial and residential. While assisting on Put-In-Bay with a restaurant Robby then began talking with his childhood friend Jeremy Fitzgerald about a possible restaurant concept that he wanted to start. Robby and Jeremy began working together to create the concept that became BAR 145.
Wanting to get back into the kitchen Robby left his position with 145 and opened Cole’s Public House, his first chef owned restaurant in his home town of Amherst Ohio, a suburb of the greater Cleveland area. Cole’s is a true Gastropub which focuses on chef driven menu concepts, sourcing local ingredients and experimenting with aging and fermenting various ingredients. He is in the final stages of opening his second concept Cork Tree Tavern, which will specialize in rustic northern Italian flavors, wines and house made pasta’s.www.corktreerestaurants.com
Certified Executive Chef with the American Culinary Federation*
Robby was attend school programs for Music Theory, Art History and is an avid reader. Robby is also a participating member of the ACF and is very active with local charities, local culinary schools and mentorship programs.
*The title of Certified Master Chef (CMC), presented solely by the American Culinary Federation (ACF) in the U.S., is the highest level of certification a chef can receive. It represents the pinnacle of professionalism and skill. Today, there are only 67 CMCs and 11 Certified Master Pastry Chefs® (CMPC) in the nation.