Richard Glover, chef of Fooducopia, on his new farm and launching dinner
This is part one of my interview with Richard Glover, exec chef of Fooducopia; part two of our conversation will run tomorrow.
Every so often, you'll hear the lilt in Richard Glover's voice. Born in South Africa and raised in Botswana, Glover, today the executive chef of Fooducopia, speaks several phonetically complicated languages, including Khoisan, the dialects of Africa that have click consonants. You'll rarely, if ever, hear these spoken in any American restaurant kitchen, so Glover practices when he can, interrupting the rapid flow with English-spoken memories of his unorthodox childhood. "I was born in South Africa, but only because there was no hospital within six hours of Botswana. Had I been born there, it would have been under the trees and I would have been surrounded by goats -- I'm not kidding," insists Glover, who says he grew up on a 37,000-acre farm "in the middle of nowhere."
His family raised cattle and grew orange trees; wild game roamed and grazed the property -- but the majority of wanderers were shot, killed and turned into dinner. "It was a whole day's drive just to buy the basics, so we grew our own food and killed our own food, and my mom was a great cook," says Glover. His dad? Not so much. "My dad couldn't boil water, much less cook, but I'll never forget him handing me a knife on my eighth birthday with instructions to go outside and behead three chickens. That was my loss of innocence," he recalls.
He left the knife behind when he took a stab at college and an accounting degree, quickly dropping out to explore Europe for a year and a half and meeting some weird people along the way, including the American who recommended that Glover, who was interested in living in America, move to Indiana. "I had distant cousins in a bunch of American cities, including Seattle, Boston and San Francisco, but Indiana was on there, too, and I was in a bar talking to a total stranger, who looked at my list and insisted that I should go to Indiana, specifically northern Indiana. Little did I know I was heading straight into the cornfields," quips Glover.
Still, he was close enough to an urbanized college campus, Notre Dame, to take another shot at a degree, this time in chemical engineering. But he walked away with only two semesters remaining and started working in restaurants, doing stints as a server, bar back, cook and even an assistant general manager. He wasn't getting paid much, though, so when he was recruited to do research and development for Johnson & Johnson, he ditched the kitchen...for the dungeon. "I was stuck in a lab two stories underground just waiting for the computer to beep so I could hit the next button," recalls Glover.
And then one morning, while he was drinking coffee before trudging back to the lab, he had an epiphany. "I was making $100,000 a year, plus a big bonus, and I absolutely hated every second of it. I'd never been so miserable, and it was a job that was so completely devoid of human interaction that I'd escape to a bar, drink water and tip really, really well just so I had someone to talk to," admits Glover. "I woke up one morning and said to myself that if this was going to be my life, I should quit now and do what I love, which is cooking."