Article by Josh Gregory with photos by Fitz
Lead photo of Chef Tim Lulfs at the new Bay Local Eatery
The work of what we do seems to get lost more and more these days. Between the social media, episodes of Top Chef, rush for True Cooks t-shirts, and photo shoots, the real work and pride that goes into being a professional cook is obscured.
When I met Tim Lulfs, I was slinging $4.99 hamburgers at Atlas Grill and Bar on Great Neck Rd. We had a well traveled, but quaint kitchen crew, pumping what we thought was some serious volume. Until Tim reminded us how busy we weren’t and that just up the street, at our sister restaurant, Chick’s Oyster Bar, the real cooks stood on line and battled to be the best cooks on Shore drive. He changed the culture of our kitchen, constantly, and usually directly pointing out who was in the weeds and why all the while laughing and cracking wise with the front of house staff. While undoubtedly the majority of the cooks all had their moments when they were ready to turn around and plant a poorly timed fist in his face, he was always the first to drink a beer with you after the shift, and sometimes float a little Ten High bourbon on top of your Miller Lite for you, for what we called “redneck boilermakers.”
He would stand in the window and lead the kitchen through the ebbs and flows of service. We used to serve rolls at Atlas and it was always a running joke that the customers would come in for a $5.99 blue plate and eat $3 worth of rolls. So one Sunday morning a server asked for more rolls and he responded, in an open kitchen, and rather loudly “these people just had the Body of Christ! And they want more bread!”
Leading by example he was always the first to arrive in the morning, often knocking out most of the prep by himself. While technically I was the kitchen manager, he was our leader, because he wanted always to be the best, the fastest. In the two years we worked together every day, we shared a fair number of beers, a lot of laughs, and even a hug when we found out his girlfriend had gone into labor with his first son. Ideas about food we batted back and forth can now be seen both on my menu at Supper and in his work at the new location of Bay Local.
Tim exemplifies in a lot of ways what this issue is all about, as anyone who’s worked with him, if they’re honest can attest to. Next time you see him buy him a beer and ask him to tell you a story about the time we spent at Atlas, you’ll laugh. I always do.