The 86’d life has caught up with Chef William Romero. He is currently the Chef de Cuisine at St. James Irish Gate Irish Pub and Carvery in Bethlehem, Pa. Chef Romero has been working the culinary industry for over the last decade. He is also one of the few chefs to successfully climb through the ranks without any formal institutional training. Here’s what he had to share about his time earning respect in the kitchen along with growing up in Nicaragua.


The 86’d Life: “How did you get involved in the service industry? Where did you get your start?”

William Romero:  “At the age of 16 I became involved in the service industry. I started working a dishwashing job at Steak and Ale in Bethlehem, PA. At that time I just wanted to make money since I was still in high school.”

86’d Life: “Why did you want to work in the service industry?”

WR: “As I mentioned my first job in a kitchen was as a dishwasher, from the dish pit you have a clear view of the whole kitchen. You see the clean side, the dirty side and most importantly the family atmosphere. I was curious on my slow times to learn how to prepare dishes. At this point (in my career) I was more curious about learning how to cook; since I knew one day I would have to fend for myself in the real world.”

86’d Life: “Do you think not having formal training in a kitchen has helped you move up the culinary ranks? Have you ever thought that school would’ve helped progress your career faster?”

WR: “Not going to culinary school has pushed me to learn and work harder than most. I am considering going to school to get a professional degree in the culinary field.”

Chef Romero on the prep table
Chef Romero on the prep table


86’d Life: “Without any formal culinary education did you have any particular influences from fellow chefs? Any mentors?”

WR: “ (Executive Chef) Victor Bock is my boss at the Sands Casino, but also my mentor. I worked under his wings for the last five and a half years. I can honestly say I’ve learned a lot from him. He is a good leader and is always willing to help or give advice to help make me a better chef.

86’d Life: “What is your favorite part of the job? The favorite part of your current restaurant?”

WR: “My favorite part of the job is the actual rush.  When the tickets start flowing in and you just get to see how everything becomes so organized. The communication between everyone is like, ‘a high school band,’ everyone is doing different things, but all those different things become one. My favorite part of my restaurant is the family atmosphere that we have built. My staff is professional and efficient, so they help make my job easier.  I trust them with every dish because they have pride in what they do.”

86’d Life: “In as few words as possible, describe “The Rush” at your restaurant.”

WR: “Our rush is so busy to the point that any little mistake made might set you back in cooking times. Just that feeling of being on the edge because you are so insanely busy actually gets my blood pumping. This is the time when the kitchen works as one (harmonized) unit the most often.”

86’d Life: “The worst part of the job?”

WR: “Worst part is the hours, the time away from your actual family, and no holidays off especially when everyone else (you know) is off.”

86’d Life: “Why have you stayed in the industry?”

WR: “It has been a rewarding experience for me. I’ve met some of the best people one can have in their circle; my wife and, of course my kid, were created in this process too. The best part about the industry is that it never gets boring because you are always learning something new – new dishes, new menus, new people, new events, it’s always moving.”

86’d Life: “What is the biggest difference in working with a corporation-run restaurant like, St. James Gate in the casino, compared to a momma-poppa joint like, Steak and Ale?”

WR: “HUMAN RESOURCES. Plus the chain in command is different. Mom and pop places you pretty much just write a menu and print it out. A corporate-run restaurant you pretty much have to go through the entire chain of command before any changes can be made.”

86’d Life: “Biggest obstacle you had to overcome while working in the service industry?”

WR: “Balancing personal life and work. I try to keep my personal life out of the kitchen which I do pretty well, but when I am with my family I am always researching ideas. We could be down at the shore eating out meanwhile my mind is really studying the menus, the preparation of the dishes – asking myself how would I make it different?”

86’d Life: “Any advice to for fellow workers trying to balance the hectic lifestyle while attempting to raise a family?”

WR: “Dedicate the time you have for them, make time for those baseball games and school shows. Talk to your kids and let them know why you are doing what you do and most importantly let them know you are doing this for them too.”

Chef Romero plating multiple dishes during 'The Rush'
Chef Romero plating multiple dishes during ‘The Rush’


86’d Life: “Do you believe growing up in Nicaragua and having such a heavy Spanish influence in your life help you in your career?”

WR: “Yes of course. I grew up in a household where my great-grandma would be in the kitchen at five in the morning already making breakfast.  The struggle is real out there people work hard with what they have.”

86’d Life: “Do you believe that the profession (service industry) is treated differently overseas, like in Nicaragua, compared to the states?”

WR: “In Nicaragua the restaurants are different; the product is fresher since the way of life there is more hand-in-hand with farmers. Here in America, we have all the equipment that you can imagine to make things easier in a kitchen. Over there is still a lot of resources not available so in my opinion chefs become more creative on how to make their jobs easier.”

86’d Life: “If you could work in a different profession, what would it be?”

WR: “If I was thinking about working another profession then I wouldn’t be doing this job. I believe in giving a hundred percent to this profession; I am married to this profession. The only time I would have a different profession is when I retire and I will actually just be a home chef.”

One of the many weekend features Chef Romero offers at St. James Irish Pub
One of the many weekend features Chef Romero offers at St. James Irish Pub


86’d Life: “What is your favorite dish to eat/to cook?”

WR: “I love all kinds of food, but my favorite is actually American-Italian cuisine, with those big bowls of pasta with lots of garlic on the bread. One of my favorite dishes to cook is actually, a Cajun cream chicken pasta.”

86’d Life: “Advice to anyone coming into the service industry?”

WR: “Make your money, if you want to make money. If you want to be in this for the long run and move your way up then dedicate, sacrifice and never give up. It will be a bumpy road, but an enjoyable ride.”

86’d Life: “Where do you see yourself in the next five years?”

WR: “Every chef’s dream is to have their own restaurant that is my ultimate goal. For the time being, I am a student to this profession, soak everything in and get the best education I can through experience.”

86’d Life: “If given the opportunity would you rather open your own restaurant here in the states or back home in Nicaragua? Would your kitchen focus on the American-Italian cuisine you’ve grown to enjoy or would it have more Central American influence?”

WR: “Well the states are my home now. This is where I learned everything. As much as I love my country, I am just a visitor now. I would love to do a mash-up (fusion) of different cuisines for my restaurant. Cooking from the heart does not need a direction.”


The 86’d Life would like to thank Chef Romero for his time and contribution. We wish him the best of luck on continuing his culinary journey. Visit Chef Romero and his crew at St. James Irish Pub & Carvery located in the Bethlehem Sands Casino in Bethlehem, PA.