Executive chef enjoys thrill of service

John Ramsbottom

Unlike many typical 14-year-old boys, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, native John Ramsbottom was spending his days in the kitchen rather than playing football or shooting hoops.

“My oldest brother’s also a chef and he owned a restaurant up in Pennsylvania.  I guess I was 13 when he first opened it, so I kind of fell in love, even back then,” Ramsbottom said. “I just liked the atmosphere and everything about it.”

Ramsbottom, 39, is the executive chef at Shaffer’s Catering, Barbecue and Deli in Woodstock. His job is to  “quarterback” or oversee the restaurant’s catering service.

From his roots in Pennsylvania, Ramsbottom migrated west to Portland, Oregon, in the late 1990s to attend the Western Culinary Institute’s Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Program.

Ramsbottom explained that, unlike a traditional four-year college, it is more beneficial for students to get work experience prior to setting foot in a classroom.

“If you go into culinary school with not much experience, you’re pretty much going to feel lost,” Ramsbottom explained.

After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in 2002, Ramsbottom was the owner and executive chef of a restaurant in Longview, Washington, called JT’s Steak and Fishhouse.

“It was a great area for fresh seafood, so it was pretty appealing as a chef, to be in that region with all of the food and products that come out of there,” Ramsbottom said.

From that experience, Ramsbottom said he learned how to balance traditional restaurant cooking with catering service. Although Ramsbottom likes each aspect of being a chef, he said, “It’s always nice to be doing different things and kind of having a different change of pace.”

Ramsbottom appears to be unfazed by the break-neck speed of the restaurant business. He said, “I’ve always been one to kind of feed off of the adrenaline you get from when you’re real busy.”

“I mean, when I was younger, sure, I was the typical 20-year-old kid with an attitude,” He said, “Over the years, it’s gotten more enjoyable as opposed to some chefs that tend to get burned out from the long hours and hard work.”

Following a brief stint back in Pennsylvania, Ramsbottom then applied for the job at Shaffer’s and started his new role two months ago.

Ramsbottom said that the valley, as well as the state, was already familiar before he made the jump. “I’ve had family down here for years. I have sister in Harrisonburg and a brother in Richmond, so I’ve spent a lot of time over [the] years visiting,” he said.

With his new position, Ramsbottom said he is looking forward to working closely with area farmers as well as “adding more to the [Shaffer’s] menu and looking to book new events.”

Between all of those responsibilities, Ramsbottom noted that sometimes between 30 percent and 40 percent of his job in Woodstock occurs outside of the kitchen.

“There’s a lot more to it than just cooking, that’s for sure,” He said.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com