Hyatt Lodge, Oak Brook Executive Chef, Joshua Karther
By Larry Atseff
The Hyatt Lodge, Oak Brook, is known for its beautiful setting. Now you are about to learn a little about Joshua Karther, Executive Chef. In his position, in a typical day, he has to make sure the cooks in the kitchen are efficiently, and consistently, preparing delicious food and drink at breakfast, lunch, and dinner for banquets, room service, the Water’s Edge Restaurant, and the Hearth Lounge, each with its own ambiance and menu specialties. Of course, there is also the Piazza Restaurant, which features “premiere Italian cuisine”. On top of all that, there is getting catering orders out the door, plus Sunday brunches and wedding receptions. And then, there are the memorable signature events like an authentic pig roast he recently prepared for a company looking for something “really unique”. It even made WGN-TV. Joshua has learned how to do all of this in top-notch hotels from Kansas City to Hilton Head Island, to San Antonio, and now the Hyatt Lodge in Oak Brook.
At every hotel in his career, he has been both an eager student and…very importantly, a teacher of cuisines as diverse as German, Mexican, Thai, Tex-Mex, Southern, Barbecue, Cajun, Mediterranean and Italian. As he says, “I have never stopped learning and teaching. I just love working with food.” “I even enjoy the rush of mealtimes. You never know what kind of rush you are going to get. It makes time go by so quick when you are busy. I got a taste of this early when I was just 18. I was put in charge of the grilling station at T-bone Charlie’s restaurant at the Marriott at the Kansas City airport, and there were nights when we did 150 steak dinners. It is a rewarding accomplishment for me and my team, even today, to see how the restaurant does at the end of the day.”
We asked, so how did you get started?
Joshua replies, “I got interested around 10 or so, because my brother, 6 years older, was in the kitchen and I watched him making all this great tasting food, and I thought, that looks like fun. I actually learned about authentic Mexican cuisine from my mother and one Grandma, and I learned about authentic German cuisine from my other Grandma.” In listening to him, in his low-key, matter-of-fact manner, he does it all with a calm sense of confidence and a big helping of dry humor. When asked, what memories you have from your early days in your mom’s kitchen he said, “The first thing I learned was how to catch things on fire.” Another memory. “I told my little sister and mom that because I was a chef, I didn’t have to clean up. I got away with it with them, but not at the Platte City, Missouri Vocational Culinary School, where I learned that you clean as you go, as well as all the other basics.” He recalls, without boasting, that he was so much into cooking that, he liked going the extra mile.
Unlike the other culinary students, he would bring dishes home and it just came naturally to him to add a little touch here and there to add a little extra flavor. “From time to time, my Dad would try some of the dishes, and when I went back to school the next day for critiques, I told the teachers ‘my Dad ate my homework’.” In effect, Joshua was getting a master’s degree in culinary. For certain, all this energy, enthusiasm, willingness to learn and experiment a little, a calm demeanor, and never taking himself too seriously, have served him extremely well. He has risen rapidly in the hotel restaurant business because he knows how to run kitchens and treat his people well, and “I let my food speak for itself.” Robert Brand, the Hyatt Lodge’s general manager adds, “Joshua’s approach has not only served him well, most importantly; it has served this hotel and our guests and diners from around the area, extremely well.
“I got interested around 10 or so, because my brother, 6 years older, was in the kitchen and I watched him making all this great tasting food, and I thought, that looks like fun. I actually learned about authentic Mexican cuisine from my mother and one Grandma, and I learned about authentic German cuisine from my other Grandma.”
One weekend recently, we handled 7 weddings without a hitch. I couldn’t have a better executive chef in charge of all dining.” Joshua’s enthusiasm for cooking not only inspires staff. For example, while his father never set foot in the kitchen until he retired, he is now an expert in barbecue. And Joshua’s 14-year-old son is learning how to prepare Asian cuisine. One last example. In his early days at the KC Airport Marriott, he would be working the omelet station for brunch, and week after week, a family and young boys got interested in watching me making and flipping omelets. “I even took them into the kitchen and gave them chef hats.” Years later, one of those boys asked my sister, who was working there as a server, if I was still in food service. She said I sure was. Today, that young man is a sous chef at that Marriott.” Find out for yourself what dining is like when led by Joshua. And, don’t be surprised if he stops by your table to say hello and to make sure you are enjoying your meal, especially if you chose one of the specialties from the variety of cuisines he and his kitchen staff have mastered.
*Photos by Marcello Rodarte