Yes, we know you don’t need another reason to love The Pantry. But just incase you’re looking for one, we’d like to introduce you to Chef Titus Holly.
Chef Holly been filling seats at The Pantry West, along with The Pantry Crest and newly opened District Fare, for the past 8 ½ years. This is no surprise to his friends and family, since Holly always loved to eat. “When I went to my class reunion, they weren’t surprised with my career choice because even in high school, all I talked about was food.”
After finishing his degree at Arkansas Culinary School, Chef Holly began working at So Restaurant where he first met Tomas Bohm, owner of The Pantry. “Tomas saw how hard I worked, my personal work ethic and my passion for food. So once he opened The Pantry, he offered me the position of Head Chef.”
Holly now has his hand in all three of the restaurants. Since the kitchens at both Pantry Crest and District Fare are small, most of the prep is done at The Pantry West where Chef Holly spends the majority of his time. He is incharge of making sure everything gets done on time and gets distributed to the right places. With all the stress, it takes a whole lot of juggling to make things run smoothly, but Holly contributes the good environment at The Pantry to why he isn’t tired of his work, along with many of his co-workers like Alex Hawk who runs the kitchen at The Pantry Crest. “It takes a lot of energy to withstand a negative environment. I’m always back in the kitchen goofing off because I prefer to have my staff in the best mood that I can.”
To keep his job from becoming routine, Chef Holly does a farm to table dinner on Fridays at The Pantry West. The dinner is 90-95% local, provided through Grass Roots Farmers Cooperative and Wilson Gardens*. When the produce comes, whatever is on the truck is what he has to use for the dinner. “Sometimes the truck will arrive at 3, and we start dinner at 5. It adds a bit of stress, but also excitement. It’s like I’m in a reality show competition with myself.”
Although Holly has been in Little Rock for 13 years, (he is a native from El Dorado), he feels that he is still learning every day. “ I don’t walk around the restaurant thinking I know everything, because I don’t. I learn from my employees, and I try to be as humble as possible, because even though we have been successful here, there are hundreds of people out there more knowledgeable than me. But I work to make everything here consistent and fresh, Tomas has installed that in me.”
On his relationship with owner Tomas Bohm, Chef Holly says it is like a marriage. After 11 years, he feels he is well taken care of, and plans to be there as long as he is allowed to. Holly has also played with the idea of opening his own restaurant one day. “I think Little Rock needs another option for barbeque. I like a dry rub, and I think the sauce should complement the rib itself, which isn’t really done around here that I’ve found.”
But for now, Chef Holly has no complaints about his life. “I’ve been the chef at The Pantry for 8 ½ years, and I don’t have gray hair. I’m very proud of that!” At the end of a hard day of work, you will find Holly at his happiest, getting to relax and review the day, and starting to think about what the next day brings. In the case of Chef Holly, it will inevitably bring amazing food, a room full of good spirited fun, and a unique chef that respects his craft and the people he creates with.
*These are farms and cooperatives that provide local goods for The Pantry currently, but any farmer is welcome to reach out to Chef Holly about becoming a vendor for The Pantry Farm to Table Meals