Chef Spotlight: Billy Mushock, the Lehigh Valley Creative

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It was near the end of the culinary program at Northampton Community College when a contest was announced. Only a select few students were chosen to compete in a Chopped-style competition where students had to turn ten ingredients into a three course meal. Billy Mushock was amongst the three winners of the competition; rewarded with a paid internship working in one of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants in New Orleans. 

From entering the program feeling less experienced than his peers, to rising above the rest in this contest, his strategy to win was a true testament to his capabilities. Every other contestant used blueberries for a dessert, but Billy went a different path. Instead, he stewed a sauce that drizzled over his entree; thoroughly impressing the judges. His ability to think outside the box, be creative, and have a natural knack for finding the best flavors in his food propelled him into success. 

Billy’s skill with exploring flavors and elements of different ingredients is what strengthens each dish prepared by his hands. He turns his meals into indulgent experiences that play on the taste buds and ensures happiness from hungry customers. His unique ideas and go-getter personality prepared him for the career in fine dining that has embellished his skills. 

But before that all began, he had some help from the inspiration he found right in his childhood home. 

He recalled a fond memory of helping his mother work in their family garden when he was a child. This, he described, was his first exposure to freshly grown food and the value of using fresh ingredients when cooking.“My mom would make things fresh with stuff out of the garden,” he said. “I always noticed that it did taste better, it really did.”

Billy cooking in the kitchen of Molinari's Italian restaurant in Bethlehem, PA.

His mother, an artist and photographer from Nazareth, Pennsylvania, always cooked every meal. This, of course, Billy accredited as a source of inspiration. “Seeing my mom cook all the time definitely gave me some interest because I wanted to know how to do that. I found myself enjoying cooking at home; I liked playing around and making different flavors with what we had in the house.” From there, his professional interest in the culinary field had begun. 

After his experience in New Orleans and graduating culinary school, he applied his skills at his first job working in the kitchen of a local country club. The food style was a basic, “vegetable of the day style” as he put it. After a year or so, he found a job working at a restaurant called The Bayou in Bethlehem, PA, where he took a liking to new-age cooking styles centered around Creole and Southern cuisines. Grateful for the experiences of these two jobs, he moved to a new restaurant in 2016 that he still calls his favorite experience— 

a farm-to-table Italian Restaurant in the Lehigh Valley called Molinari’s. Here, his creativity flourished as he climbed through the ranks. 

Billy was promoted to sous chef within his first six months at Molinari’s. “The head chef let me have a ton of creative freedom. More often than not, half the menu were my ideas that I wanted to do.” These dishes notoriously combined unique flavors that highlighted different aspects of a couple ingredients at a time. Some of these included his personal creation of a lamb pistachio fettuccine pasta; with fettuccine noodles made from an original pistachio flour mixture glistened in homemade mint pesto sauce. 

After his experience in New Orleans and graduating culinary school, he applied his skills at his first job working in the kitchen of a local country club. The food style was a basic, “vegetable of the day style” as he put it. After a year or so, he found a job working at a restaurant called The Bayou in Bethlehem, PA, where he took a liking to new-age cooking styles centered around Creole and Southern cuisines. Grateful for the experiences of these two jobs, he moved to a new restaurant in 2016 that he still calls his favorite experience— 

a farm-to-table Italian Restaurant in the Lehigh Valley called Molinari’s. Here, his creativity flourished as he climbed through the ranks. 

Billy was promoted to sous chef within his first six months at Molinari’s. “The head chef let me have a ton of creative freedom. More often than not, half the menu were my ideas that I wanted to do.” These dishes notoriously combined unique flavors that highlighted different aspects of a couple ingredients at a time. Some of these included his personal creation of a lamb pistachio fettuccine pasta; with fettuccine noodles made from an original pistachio flour mixture glistened in homemade mint pesto sauce.

 

When asked to describe his personal creative style, he replied, “I’m very seasonal when I cook. Say in the springtime, one of the big vegetables is asparagus. Really, I’m going to take that asparagus, find one or two things that really tie together with it, then add herbs and aromatics to highlight it even more just to see how those two to three ingredients play really well with each other.” As he continued inventing his own dishes and expanding his creativity, he found himself at the next stop of his culinary journey at another Lehigh Valley restaurant close by. 

In 2019, he began working at Bolete— a farm to table fine dining establishment. At Bolete, he was able to bring some of his expertise cooking with pastas and Italian influences, mixing with the Asian fusion inspiration from the head chef. He continued his exceptional work up until the recent months as the pandemic affected the restaurant industry at large. 

Billy preparing lamb in the wood fire pizza oven in the kitchen of Molinari's.

Although Billy’s profession was impacted by the outbreak of COVID-19, he looks at the glass half full. The restaurant became a bustling hub of to-go orders for their community, as customers did their best to support the local businesses. He also assisted in reinventing the menu to make their food suitable for takeout while maintaining the high standards of quality and experience.

The 26 year-old has notable experience under his belt with many opportunities set out for him in the future. He expressed his hopes to further his sous chef experience and someday run his own restaurant, and with his strong ambitions, this dream is not far off. For now, you can count on finding him back in the Bolete kitchen within the next couple of weeks upon reopening. It is chefs like Billy who make the culinary industry what it is for the way he values the power of food and brings people together with his creative visions.

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