Culinary delight: Nashua Country Club chef receives top honors

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON Executive Chef Joseph Allison, left, recent recipient of a “Chef of the Year” honor bestowed upon him by the American Culinary Federation; Professional Chefs of New Hampshire, consults with Nashua Country Club banquet chef Dan Zagarella, of Manchester, on preparations that will become selections on the dinner menu at the country club, an establishment at which Allison’s staff of culinary professionals may prepare more than 150 dinners a day for the club’s restaurant patrons, along with other items served at the snack stand near the ninth hole on the club’s golf course and meals that grace corporate gatherings, weddings and other social events such as the recent Mother’s Day festivities wherein 450 meals were served in a spacious hall alongside the club’s swimming pool.

Mortals daring to thicken their soup by heating a combo of flour and butter and then pouring the gloop into a boiling cauldron of broth wonder why their culinary creation is comprised of chunks of chicken, vegetables and glue.

Glue is the result of such folly, when the roux – pronounced roo – is not gently cooked for a half-hour or so, contends Executive Chef Joseph Allison, top chef for nine years at the Nashua Country Club and recent winner of the prestigious Chef of the Year award from the American Culinary Federation; Professional Chefs of New Hampshire. The PCNH chapter of the ACF promotes numerous aspects of the industry throughout the Nashua, Manchester and Concord areas.

Allison, a graduate of the culinary arts program at Southern New Hampshire University, went on to secure a bachelor’s degree in hospitality administration and to serve as a mentor to culinary students attending the Nashua Technology Center at Nashua High School North and at Alvirne High School’s technology program, in Hudson.

Allison’s wife, Krystal, and their three children, Joey, 12, Julia, 10, and Jillian, 5, know him as their go-to cook for everything from nutritious, energy-boosting breakfasts to dinners featuring locally grown produce, often picked fresh from the family’s garden where Jillian enjoys picking ripened Jalapeno peppers because they “pop off the stem” with ease.

“My grandmother was a chef at a private school,” Allison said. “I’ve been cooking all my life.”

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON Chef Joseph Allison, of Hudson, displays the medal he recently was awarded when named “Chef of the Year,” an honor bestowed upon him at the annual dinner hosted by the American Culinary Federation; Professional Chefs of New Hampshire, an organization comprised of more than 230 ACF chapters in the United States. The professional is the executive chef at the Nashua Country Club, a private country club founded in 1916, and is acknowledged through the award for his work at NCC and for his mentorship of students in the culinary programs at Nashua High School North and at Alvirne High School in Hudson. The adjunct instructor at Nashua Community College has been Executive Chef of the country club since 2012.

Other cooks motivated his interest. His father, John Allison, retired, was a deputy chief for Nashua Fire Rescue. He did a lot of the cooking for the firefighters when his shift enabled some dalliance in the kitchen.

“The guys on probation usually do the cooking,” he said. “But my father was such a good cook, he wanted to do the meals there, just because he enjoyed it.”

Allison credits the programs of the PCNH, a part of the ACF, a nationwide organization of more than 230 chapters across the United States, for promoting the culinary profession. It attends to the accreditation goals of hundreds of chefs, cooks, pastry chefs and culinary students and many other facets of well-being within the industry. Monthly meetings and training classes, along with seminars bringing word of innovations are focuses. The ACF also hosts a scholarship program and contributes to culinary arts programs in high schools and colleges.

Keith Fournier, vice president of American Culinary Federation; Professional Chefs of New Hampshire, extended congratulations to Allison.

“Chef Joe definitely deserved the award,” Fournier said. “He is very active with the chapter, works closely with students and has a dedication and passion for a business that’s a lot of hard work.”

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON Chef Joseph Allison, left, executive chef at the Nashua Country Club and the recent recipient of a prestigious “Chef of the Year” award from the American Culinary Federation; Professional Chefs of New Hampshire chapter, takes a moment to thank his culinary team, longtime professionals pictured here, from left after Allison, Juan Portillo, nine years at NCC; Jesus Molina, four years; Douglas Corrigan, 15 years; Manuel Portillo, 15 years; Patrick Beers, five years; Jack Colon, 12 years; and Dan Zagarella, six years. The team seen here and others off-shift that day are credited by Allison with assisting him in preparing 450 dinners on Mother’s Day, as many as 150 nightly restaurant dinners, tasty fare for the golf course snack stand and feasts for hundreds of guests at around 25 weddings held at NCC each year.

Allison admits there is hard work and long hours inherent in the profession. Nevertheless, he fosters an anticipation that his training and experience is fortifying him for any culinary challenge, whether a family dinner on a special occasion or dinner for 500 at a wedding reception.

“If young people want to do this work and have the ambition, they should go to culinary school,” Allison said. “It can teach a good cook to be a professional chef.”

Allison said he enjoys cooking all types of

cuisine. He teaches classes at Nashua Community College, where he helps students refine the techniques he has mastered through the years. He said he takes time with the students, especially in sharing techniques slowly so that they can observe a process and follow steps such as “fabricating” a chicken. Fabricating is the term for disjointing and separating the legs, the wings and the breast portions of the bird.

“I’ve probably done 10,000 chickens in my years,” Allison said. “Doing the fabricating slowly is a way to make it easier for the students, so they can eventually do the move very fast.”

He said he is grateful for the Chef of the Year award. He also is proud of his certification as an executive chef. The rigorous certification process entailed a trial at the world-famous Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Boston. His examination included judgement of fare prepared for a three-course meal and a test of 100 questions exploring all aspects of the career. Refresher courses in supervisory management, nutrition and sanitation procedures were requirements for consideration of the title of executive chef.

Allison relates the experience with the joy that comes from a job well done and recognized by one’s peers. The credentials have served him well, but he bumps the credit over to his team of culinary associates. He said that most of the culinary staff at the Nashua Country Club have been with him for years, a longevity “unheard of” in the industry.

“Some of my staff have been here 15 years,” Allison said. “If I didn’t have these guys, I’d be nothing.”