Jerry Bolton

Chef, OnCenter
“In 1982, my parents divorced and I became a 15-year old “man of the house.” Unable to still do the things I wanted, like play football, hang with friends, or even just watch TV, I was thrown into work and took on the role of “bread winner.” With three younger siblings at home, I knew it’s what I had to do to help my mother.
I entered the world of foodservice by working at a local fine dining restaurant. I was the low man on the totem pole, as my job was washing dishes. I quickly moved on to washing vegetables and prep work, and within a couple years, I was cooking. We planted a garden on the restaurant’s property and I got to help with the daily tending of the garden, then prepare the bounty that nature had produced and serve it to our patrons. Pretty quickly I realized that I had found my niche in life.
The farm-to-table concept became a reality for me very early on. On a daily basis, I literally displayed the fruits of my labor. That passion carried on year after year. Two years ago, my staff and I constructed a 125-square-foot cold frame unit on the premises of my present job at The OnCenter where we grow and harvest herbs, vegetables, and edible flowers. At home we have always have a garden too, in fact, we’ve recently implemented a greenhouse in our backyard. While gardening in Central New York is challenging at times, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m now grateful for finding such clarity in my life at such a young age and know without a doubt, that I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.”
“As a young child, my grandmother had a garden in our backyard and while she was cooking, she would ask me to go pick jalapenos, tomatoes, and squash. That garden made a big impression on me and my life. I believe that is where my passion for food and fellowship developed. On Sundays our family would gather at my grandparents’ home to eat and laugh. I believe that no matter what happens in life there is no better feeling than gathering around the dinner table with your family and friends.”