North Texas Daily

Local chef’s recipe for success beyond traditional schooling

Local chef’s recipe for success beyond traditional schooling

March 31
03:05 2016

Kyle Martin | Staff Writer


Chef Chad Kelley was not the kind of person who enjoyed the structure of school, and did not enjoy his time in high school.

He saw it as time spent doing mostly busy-work. Rather than learning things that would directly influence his life and future, he found himself doing things he had no interest or concern in. 

Chad Kelley, head chef at Barley and Board, also brews his own beers in house. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

Chad Kelley, head chef at Barley and Board, also brews his own beers in house. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

“’What was the meaning of him running through the field?’” Kelley said, recalling a high school lecture on “The Catcher in the Rye.” “Who gives a f–k?”

Now, he is the man behind the menu of Barley & Board. The establishment coupled with Kelley’s creations tie together a rustic atmosphere with casual, and delicious, dining.

Kelley went to community college for a short period of time, but found it wasn’t what he wanted. After being involved in kitchens since he was young, he made the move into the food industry and began to gain experience in his trade. 

The California native got much of his initial push toward the food industry working at In ‘N Out, moving from the Golden State to open and manage a few locations “up north,” soon after beginning his journey through culinary school at the California Culinary Academy. The institute, an affiliate of Le Cordon Bleu, is where he received his Associate of Occupational Studies degree and culinary certificate.

“It’s just something that’s always been in my blood and it’s always been in my family,” Kelley said, speaking on his time as a chef. “It’s always [been] something I was doing. To me, it was almost like a hobby [from] when I was younger.”

Culinary school, being a trade school, is structured differently than the traditional four-year university degree plan. A four-unit class is covered in two weeks, so every other week encompassed a new technique or subject for him to learn within the world of food.

“It was very in-depth, intense, fast-paced, and it was great,” he said. “I thrived at that point.”

Bacon Wrapped Medjool Dates with chorizo and piquillo sauce, a popular item on Barley and Boards small plate menu.

Bacon Wrapped Medjool Dates with chorizo and piquillo sauce, a popular item on Barley and Boards small plate menu. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

After finding his niche, the chef began developing his skills to forward him into his nearly 20-year-old profession. His stint at culinary school became the foundation he used as a skill base to advance into bigger and better things.

“It was the time of my life,” Kelley said. “It was probably the most intense thing I’ve ever done, but it was also the most fun I’ve ever had.”

At Barley & Board,  there are more than 30 kegs on-tap filled with assorted brews, including a keg full of whatever batch the restaurant invented for the night in their in-house micro-brewery.  Encased in glass and displayed in front of customers, the cerveza stronghold can brew around twenty gallons of hoppy goodness per week.

Typically, the special batch will sell within roughly two days. Paired with a table’s golden glasses of craft are “boards.” Featured on the handsome cutting boards are assorted meats and cheeses served with pairings of various fruits, ground spiced nuts, crackers or olives. These first courses are served to be devoured family style, with the fingers.

Amos Magliocco, a creative writing professor at UNT, finds himself returning to the restaurant nearly once every three weeks. Enjoying the baby back ribs, burgers, hanger steak and house made drinks he calls “almost Paschall’s level quality,” Magliocco returns time after time because Barley and Board offers a pleasurable and entertaining night on the town.

“Mainly, it’s fun. The food’s great, the windows are huge, I like being on the square–it’s just got a really good vibe,” Magliocco said. “But if the food wasn’t great, I wouldn’t come back, so the food is great. I think it’s the most fun dining experience on the square.”

Kelley’s role at the restaurant is characterized by the way the kitchen and its staff performs. Adding he works to develop food and menus, he notes another important part of his job consists of mentoring those who work behind the stoves and the prep tables.

Parisian Gnocchi made with market vegetables, broth, soft herbs and parmesan. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

Parisian Gnocchi made with market vegetables, broth, soft herbs and parmesan. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

The trade he and chefs all over have to contend with is executing a concept through their team, in the hopes that the crew will envision the same concept on a plate, to be served as an experience to a hungry person. He and his team are trying to create an experience and culture within the restaurant and their food that would make any customer want to come back again and again.

“When it’s prepared right and presented right, it’s worth it,” Kelley said.

The chef buys into the ideology that everything he makes could be better and dishes could always improve. 

Colin Lane is kitchen manager at Barley & Board and has worked alongside Kelley since the beginning of the restaurants planning, jumping “on board” just after most of the menu testing and conception was coming to a close.

“He is a piece of work–he’s one of the good ones, up there with some of the greatest people I’ve worked with,” Lane said about Kelley. “I’ve learned a lot here.”

Of the restaurant business, he said people are always learning and cooks adapt and grab onto new ideas and concepts as they come. Working in food is a trade that involves service and marketing, along with just making food. There are a lot of constantly moving parts, he said, and diverse layers have to work together to function efficiently.

“People that haven’t worked in the restaurant industry have no idea what’s going on,” Lane said.  “It’s one job where you’re never finished, and [there’s not a lot] of winning. You can win, but only for a short, short period of time.”

Chef Kelley has similar sentiments on the complexity of his profession and the restaurant industry. Now with almost half of his life logged into his profession, he has a considerable amount of experience to draw insight from. 

With a lack of glamour and grandeur, there is something that keeps many returning into the industry., with many finding it to be a passion that they would prefer over any nine-to-five desk job.

“Really to be in the food industry, for any length or period of time, mentally there has to be something wrong with you,” Kelley said.  “If you’re able to get past that, you’re able to play with food all day.”

Featured Image: Barley and Board’s cheese platter is a lunch favorite at the fine dining restaurant located on the Denton square. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

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