Timothy Bolt is the chef and owner of Great Big Jerk Wilmington, Full Circle Food, and Inner Circle Events. He has been working in Wilmington since 2007. Read his story below as this week’s #PeopleofWilmDE!
“I started working in Wilmington as an intern in the Green Room at the Hotel DuPont in 2007. I’ve worked with HOPE Center to provide meals to over 200 displaced. I’ve also volunteered with Friends of Fusion Foundation, Delaware Soup Kitchen, and Friendship House of Delaware.
I’m a Southern boy by roots. I was born and raised in Southern Virginia and was a country bumpkin’ most of my childhood years [when] backyard BBQ and biscuits and gravy were an everyday way of life. Living with and seeing my parents work as hard as they did, I got the idea in my head after watching Emeril and Wolfgang Puck and reading Anthony Bourdain that I was going to be a chef and move off to New York one day…..and I did! At the age of 17, I packed up and moved to Hyde Park. I spent the next 4 years immersed in the world of food, fun, and everything New York had to offer. I was in awe of big city living and what the world had to offer.
My journey to Wilmington started with Chef Tom Hannum from the Hotel DuPont recruiting me from the Culinary Institute of America for my externship program. During this time, I honed my French techniques under Chef Bill Hoffman. Soon after graduating with my Bachelors Degree I returned to work as a Chef in the Green Room side by side with what I refer to as the OG’s of the Green Room: Chef Bill Hoffman, Chef Dan Sheridan, Chef Bruce Galloway, Chef Pat D’Amico, Chef Tom Hannum, Chef Michell Mitchell, and a handful of other greats that have since moved on to do great things.
After the Hotel DuPont, I ventured on to other Wilmington spots as I loved the city life as a fresh college graduate. I spent the next 3 or 4 years as the Sous Chef at Deep Blue working beside Chef Matt Crist and Dan Butler. I realized I had an amazing love for seafood. From studying abroad in Italy, I knew that I really enjoyed eating this style of food, but working here broadened this area for me tremendously.
From there I moved to Big Fish, where I added another notch to the belt doing high volume, fast paced seafood. After a short bout on the Riverfront, Eric Sugrue asked me to help open the Big Fish Glen Mills location, where my career as a Culinary Director kicked off. Over the next 4 years, the wheels would really get going with my involvement with Bella Coast Italian Kitchen & Market on 202 and Nick’s Fish House in Baltimore.
Here are 3 interesting facts about me:
- I have a thing for what my brother in laws would call “elevator music”. As early as 4th or 5th grade, when you begin playing music in school, I found myself thoroughly enjoying classical music. That quickly progressed into Jazz after continuing with music into High School. When people hop into my car and the radio kicks on there is about a 99% chance that 90.1 or Pandora is playing some sort of “elevator music” and a 100% chance when I turn to see their reaction there is a confused stare on the person’s face.
- I would consider myself mechanically inclined. Growing up in the ‘80s and 90’s I found myself having to figure things out very quickly. Whether it was working on cars, appliances around the house, building things, to now doing tons of home remodeling myself, I always had a knack for figuring out how things work and getting the job done myself.
- I absolutely love everything about Italy. I spent several weeks traveling all of Italy while attending the Culinary Institute of America and fell in love with the food, wine, culture and the people. I find relaxation in making pasta from scratch as well as preparing and selling homemade Italian Gelato at Great Big Jerk. I was able to visit many of the amazing farms and centuries old places most will only ever see on TV where true Balsamic and Parmigiano Reggiano are created. At the time I was trilingual so navigating Italy was quite enjoyable as someone who was able to enjoy their 21st birthday in Capri and Bologna. I one day hope to retire somewhere on one of Italy’s beautiful coasts with my family close by.
As a chef, my now retired-from-bartending wife, Mary Schleuter [and I] know how to have a pretty extensive night out in Wilmington. We would typically start the night off with a drink at my mentor Bill Hoffman’s restaurant (House of William and Merry), half the time [we either] end up staying or coming back here on the way home, before venturing Downtown. Over the years, we have gone back and forth on our favorite spot but our three go-to places are La Fia Bistro, Bardea, and The Quoin. We typically grab two spots at the bar and enjoy a few cocktails and small plates while chatting it up with the bartenders at the first stop or two and then venture to the next bar for an entree and night cap.
I would say the restaurant that allowed me to put my mark on Wilmington, from behind the glamor and spotlight while working with the Big Fish Restaurant Group, was the opening of the Trolley Square Oyster House. This was the first time as a chef that I was given “carte blanche” with a menu and it was an immediate hot spot. The overwhelming acceptance and excitement that came from the opening of the Oyster House cemented my love for the city.
[My proudest moment as a Wilmingtonian was] the opening of the Oyster House. This was a defining moment, both in a positive and negative way for me personally and professionally. Only a handful of people actually know who the person in that tiny kitchen was at the time but it was a huge accomplishment for me as a professional chef. I was able to express everything culinary I had learned leading up to that restaurant and it was a huge success.
I’ve made some great connections both personally and professionally while working throughout the city and was able to absorb a lot working very closely with one of Wilmington’s most predominant restaurateurs and it molded me into the person I am today. I met my wife while working in Wilmington’s restaurants and we have an amazing family because of my time in this city.
[I’m excited about the] growth [of Wilmington]. After being back and forth over the last 15 years working in and out of the city, it’s nice to see that growth is still happening. New restaurants, businesses, housing, etc. Wilmington is still pushing to grow and I am happy to now be a part of it with my return Downtown.
Every year I look forward to the St. Anthony’s Italian Festival. I lived on 9th and Lincoln for a brief time and loved how the city flocked together for this event. I now enjoy bringing my wife and 3 children to this every year.
It would be great to see the city’s office workers make a full return bringing back some of the hustle and bustle that makes working here so much fun. COVID obviously had a huge impact on all of the major cities across the world, but a return to normal would be great.
[I advise the people of Wilmington] to go out and experience all of the great things Wilmington and its surroundings have to offer. There are some amazing restaurants and businesses spread out all over the city and outside of it, fun events, and beautiful things to see.
I’ve definitely had a hell of a run while working and living in Wilmington. I had some amazing work experiences, lots of fun nights out, and met the love of my life here. I also experienced one of the biggest career altering changes from losing my job just when I began thinking I was nearing the top of the mountain. This experience humbled me both as a chef and as a person, and it set me on a path of becoming an entrepreneur. I now own and operate numerous businesses both in and out of the city and have made my return to Wilmington just a couple of blocks away from where my story originally started. You could say my Wilmington story has come ‘full circle.’ :)”