Cooking just part of why Fankle loves chef job

| Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Danny Fankle is a chef who takes great pride in his work.

He can be found all summer at Fox Chapel Racquet Club.

During the winter, he does catering out of the kitchen in the club located along Hunt Road.

Danny says desire is what makes a good chef.

He started as a chef by chance, but has grown to embrace the art of being a chef.

It's not just cooking, he says.

Being a chef also means pleasing the diner and catering to the customer's wishes.

“It's rewarding when you're able to please people and they leave happy,” he says.

“Cooking isn't for everyone,” he says. “Some of it is learned. Some of it comes natural.”

He has both experience and style.

Danny began his career working as summer help at the Fox Chapel Golf Club in 1969.

“The chef was pretty hard on me but at the end of summer he asked me to stay on.”

Danny trained at the club, spending time at the stove but also learning about taking inventory, ordering, scheduling and managing a kitchen.

From there he went to the Pittsburgh Golf Club in Squirrel Hill. He made stops at Franco's, Herb ‘n' Gourmet and the Fluted Mushroom.

Many of his catering clients have known him since the beginning.

A professional chef works hard.

During the last six years working at the Racquet Club, Danny starts at Memorial Day and hustles the food out of the kitchen until Labor Day.

There are no weekends off.

As for catering, Danny has worked at many venues.

He has served food at the library at Shady Side Academy, has dished out meals from a small tent with no utilities and worked in a kitchen that had pictures on the stove.

“Relax and enjoy. You can't control everything — the weather, lights going out.

Do the very best to make the events special for yourself,” Danny says.

Danny said he doesn't work on many sit-down dinners anymore.

And there is no annual event he looks most forward too.

For Danny, it's all about the menus.

“I love it when people can tell you what they want,” he says.

Some clients can only explain what they don't like.

Danny says the most important thing in creating a menu to think of those who are invited.

He says, “You need to be aware of what your guests are looking for.”

Danny explains he doesn't care for sushi; however, he would serve it for a party.

While the menu is the most important part of the party for Danny, it is not the only thing that makes for a successful event.

Danny has the knack for creating a pleasant presentation for his meals.

And he brings a zest for life to his duties.

While Danny loves his job and exudes a positive attitude, the chef says there were times in his life when he found it difficult to return to the kitchen.

One time was when his mother passed away.

The other was when he lost his close friend.

While he says cooking wasn't exactly his mother's “thing,” he still found it difficult returning to work after she passed away.

But he has survived the tough moments and says he has laughter in his life once again.

And he still has the desire to continue to feed others while bringing a smile to their face.

Sharon Drake is a freelance writer with Trib Total Media.

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