In his 15 years of employment, it’s safe to say Lance Ignatowski has made his rounds throughout the Owings Mills restaurant scene.
However, after helping open Famous Dave’s some five years ago, Ignatowski has settled down and is now the barbecue joint’s longest tenured cook.
Ignatowski sat down with Patch talk about what he’s eating off the menu to stay healthy, what keeps him motivated and much more.
Patch: What do you like about working at Famous Dave’s in general?
Ignatowski: The work environment, management, employees—just everything in general. The environment is a lot of fun. There’s always something going on whether it be with the food or with the employees. There’s always something going on.
When you’re back there, what are the keys to running a fluid, successful, stress-free kitchen?
Time. Teamwork. Just everybody communicating and getting everything done in a timely manner.
What do you think makes Famous Dave’s a special place to come and eat?
Hospitality, definitely our hospitality. Our servers. We have some great servers who have been here a long time—since we opened the store.
I’ve been here a few times and eaten some different things. First, what’s your favorite thing to make? Second, your favorite thing to eat off the menu?
My favorite thing to make is the ribs. Favorite thing to eat is the turkey burger.
Really? Why the turkey burger? I wouldn’t think of that at a place that specializing in red meat.
Me personally, I don’t eat a pork. I don’t eat beef. Roasted chicken is good, but I just prefer the turkey burger. It’s just a good product. Low calories, healthy. That and the broccoli is my favorite meal.
Do you think it’s funny that you’re not a red meat eater and working in a place like this?
I just changed my diet a couple years back. I did when I first started, I used to eat the ribs and the burgers. Then I just changed up my diet because of health reasons and cut it all out. Now, it’s either grilled chicken, turkey burger or roasted chicken.
Was it a weight loss type thing?
I’ve dropped about 30-35 pounds. I went from 260 down to 225.
That probably is not easy when you’re working in a restaurant almost every day.
Not at all. A lot of water, no soda. Chewing gum is a big key to it, so you don’t stuff your mouth.
After a long, 10-13 hour day, what do you when you get home to kind of chill out and relax?
Take a shower, look at pictures of my son and go to sleep, honestly. I get my son every weekend. I have off every weekend here. After five years here, I’ve earned it. Getting him every weekend is the reason why I’m still working here. He’s one of my main reasons why I’m still in this business. I like cooking, but would I much rather be working in the corporate world? Yes … But, this is what I do. This is what supports me and supports my son.
How helpful is it that you’ve got a motivating force like that behind you?
Very, very helpful. Looking at his picture on my phone every time I open it up is a motivator, definitely. Keeps me staying positive and keeps me going.
If someone came to you and said they were starting to work in a kitchen, what advice would you give him to impress the people he was working with?
Take the time to learn everything the right way. Don’t rush. Follow the training guidelines, read the books, look over the recipes, but take your time doing it. Don’t rush into anything and don’t let anybody else rush you into anything. Pretty much, be patient. And last thing, go to school. Honestly, if you’re young, go to school, stay in school, finish it.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been lightly edited and shortened for clarity and brevity.