Life of a Chef

For Evoke’’s Chef de Cuisine Robert Reinken, cooking is in his blood. As a young boy, Reinken recalls growing up in a house where every meal was cooked at home.  “”My mother and grandmother both cooked a lot, but my grandmother was a big inspiration. She is Russian and my greatest food memories were of her Borscht, Pirozhki, and Pelmeni we made together.”” Reinken spent a year with her in Russia when he was young, Reinken recalls how food is so strongly tied to Russian culture, family, and hospitality. It’’s said that in ancient times, a table was always covered with a white tablecloth – bread and salt on top. This was a sign that guests were welcomed.

After having spent the last few years in California, Reinken decided to move back to the Queen City. It was here where he earned his AA degree in Culinary Arts followed by a BS degree in Food Service Management from Johnson and Wales. With 20 years of restaurant experience, Reinken has developed a unique cooking style drawing from the various regions throughout the United States where he worked, as well as from the many different cuisines he encountered.

Evoke’'s Chef de Cuisine Robert Reinken.
Evoke’’s Chef de Cuisine Robert Reinken.

Life in the culinary business starts from the ground up. “I have been in the industry since I was old enough to get a job. I started out as a bus boy, and then ended up going into the kitchen to wash dishes where I slowly began picking up more prep and kitchen responsibilities. I made it to being a line cook and never looked back.” The industry “never gets boring.”” Reinken loves the action and the creativity working with food allows. As Chef de Cuisine, Reinken’s menu is based on products and balance.

“”Our guests at Le Meridien are craving more than the ordinary hotel restaurant experience, so we took the traditional steakhouse and flipped it on its head to offer unique crudos (raw dishes) and house-made pastas alongside the best cuts of meat money can buy.” ” 

Not able to imagine working in an office or sitting at a desk, Reinken loves working with his hands. It’s fun and full of action. A typical day starts out preparing for lunch service. Next, he orders meat, fish, produce, and specialty products needed for the next morning’s deliveries. With a shift in focus, Reinken starts on dinner service. The days are hectic filled with scheduling, meetings, special event planning, and working on new dishes for the menus.  There is a large team of cooks, chefs, stewards, and servers all needing supervision and coaching. It’’s a lot to take on, but Reinken’’s success stems from emphasizing the “importance of communication and mutual trust between the chef and staff.”  

Evoke's veal agnolotti.
Evoke’s veal agnolotti.

A good eye for detail, calm demeanor, an ability to lead by example and earn respect are all important characteristics for a chef to possess, but most importantly chef must be able to cook. Reinken has proven that well over the years. “”As a cook, I believed strongly that it takes more than a degree and a job in a kitchen to be a chef.  For a long time I refused to call myself one, but the day did come when I knew that I was truly a chef, and I was proud to say so.””

The Running of a Restaurant

As Complex General Manager, Brian Hutchin’s’ “desire was to focus on something that Charlotte had never experienced before—a new-aged steakhouse. The chosen name Evoke is also significant in and of itself. It arouses the senses thus serving its purpose to stimulate the experience associated with food. The menu focuses on “prime and dry-aged steaks, house-made pastas, and innovative, raw seafood crudos. Products of the highest quality are sourced both locally and abroad. “It’’s just better citizenship and more sustainable to buy local first. Some of those local ingredients find their way into the seasonal pastas and crudos Evoke prepares each day.”

A stunning cocktail from Evoke.
A stunning cocktail from Evoke.

The ambiance in Evoke is warm. There is a calm beauty enhanced by floor to ceiling windows dressed with gossamer drapes, dark wood accented furniture and wooden light fixtures plus a variety of paintings hanging from its walls.  The “vibrant city life of Uptown” calls Charlotteans and nearby residents to seek out this new and chic restaurant for a meal that promises to be unique. Guests at Le Meridien will find the restaurant’s offerings delectable. In general, we want to create a fun, interactive experience.” That’’s why Evoke encourages guests to share their food. By ordering a couple of crudos and pastas, and a steak or two to share with the table, guests can experience much more.”  Food is meant to be fun and engaging.

Evoke offers more than the ordinary hotel restaurant experience. A top-notch dining experience and a highly trained staff accompany a twist on age-old favorites. The traditional steakhouse is turned upside down. “”Guests want to taste something that they can’t get anywhere else, not only in terms of food, but also with beverage selections. So, we offer a large array of boutique, small batch whiskeys in place of the normal standard bar offerings they may find somewhere else, and of course an extensive wine list.”” Guests dining for the very first time will be able to tell the difference. Patrons – both Charlotteans and hotel guests – will realize that Evoke is the culinary pièce de résistance.

For further information about Evoke and to take a look at the menu, go to: www.evokerestaurant.com