Traveling Cowboy Chef

Cooking in a Typical Vietnamese Family Kitchen

Who the heck is this guy and what is he doing!  I get asked that all the time, and I got to say it was a challenge to come up with so here is the whole story!

John Wayne Formicaknown as the Traveling Cowboy Chef or “The Duke” is somewhat of a Renaissance Man. Yes, this half Italian, half Lebanese lad was in fact named after the Old West actor John Wayne. And while most have difficulty reconciling two strongly diverse cultures, John has always fused them nicely together in the kitchen.

His father was in the military and his mother was a pastry chef/engineer allowing him to spend much of his time with his grandparents. Both paternal and maternal grandparents were in the restaurant world, thus thoroughly immersing John as a young “foodie” which he only came to realize years later. Even so, he had no desire to become a chef or work in the industry.

He did, however, work on the line during high school at a fish market, and then at an Italian restaurant becoming head pizzaole. Standing in front of a 1200-degree brick oven, he concluded that this wasn’t the profession for him. He transitioned to a short-lived career in media engineering and deejaying whereby he was faced with the late-night partying scene. Feeling unfulfilled and wanting more for his life, he made the decision to clean up and redirect his path by joining the army.

As expected, the Army was a life-changing experience. As a result of injuries in the service, John was released from the Army. In the end he learned he was meant for the military, it just wasn’t meant for him! Yet again, he found himself transitioning in life, and just by chance, venturing into cooking again for friends and neighbors. He made the decision to return to Chicago to pursue his newfound culinary dream and be close to family while attending The Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, Le Cordon Bleu Program (CHIC). There he excelled at all levels, even pastry. For his externship, he chose to trace his roots and cook under Master Chef Biagio Longo in Sorrento, Italy.

Returning to the States, he took an opening positioning with Marcus Samuelson as Sous Chef at C-House. After a year, he moved on to learn the art of high-volume cooking in catering. Through interviews and tasting’s during that time, he eventually was introduced to Chef Rodelio Aglibot and the two hit it off. Aglibot hired John as an opening Sous Chef at Rockit Ranch Productions’ New Asian concept restaurant, Sunda. Their partnership has grown through their time at Rockit and he has been an integral member in building the E+O concept with the Intrestco team.

Currently working and traveling the world as a culinary consulting chef!

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