I Live Here Now: Chris Hawk of Levy Catering

Cookie-cutter Caesar salads and boxed turkey sandwiches? Not on Chris Hawk’s watch. As the new Executive Chef for Levy Catering at Great Lakes Science Center (GLSC), Hawk foregoes stereotypical fare in favor of fresh, carefully sourced ingredients and a fully housemade menu.

“Making everything in-house is huge—that was a day one change,” says Hawk. “Moving forward, we want to expand to offer a little more variety, and [selections] that aren’t necessarily expected.”

Hawk took over the post at GLSC in October, having relocated to Cleveland from Mammoth Lakes, CA. Though he now holds a lofty Executive Chef title, his rise to culinary prominence was anything but linear. In his early career days, Hawk initially took a job as a low-level prep cook strictly to complement his rock star lifestyle as a touring member of two bands.

“I was looking for a job that had a flexible schedule, and someone recommended cooking,” recalls Hawk of those early days at Athens, GA-based East West Bistro. “Becoming a chef was never anything I dreamed of—this was before the Food Network boom where chefs were glorified.”

Hawk soon found himself on a new, tastier trajectory, moving on to chef positions at Copper Creek Brewing Company and the Classic Center (both in Athens). In early 2016, Hawk made the move to Mammoth, where he worked with Levy Catering at 53 Kitchen & Cocktails.

Along the way, Hawk learned from “some insanely talented people,” resulting in his own unique cooking style that he describes as “a tasteful blend of Asian, Latin-American and even a little Southern soul food.”

When Hawk got the opportunity to take the job at GLSC, Hawk knew Cleveland mainly as the home of Michael Symon and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame—but not much else. What he found was a huge art community, a growing food scene, and a place that felt like home.

“Personally, I’d like to see more of Cleveland,” says Hawk, who resides in Rocky River. “We got here in October and have been moving pretty rapidly since then, but once things get settled, I’d really like to embrace the city.”

When Hawk is able to get out and about, he enjoys hitting up spots like Luxe Kitchen & Lounge and catching live music at Lakewood’s 5 O’Clock Lounge. He’s also scouring the culinary scene for potential vendors and partners at GLSC. “We are surrounded by different artisans like Ohio City Pasta and Ohio City Provisions, so why not bring more of that here?” says Hawk.

And though Hawk can be found more often in the kitchen these days than on the concert stage, he says his role as a chef affords the best of both worlds. “It’s crazy, it’s hectic, but at the end of the night, you are that rock star,” he says. “You get to make people happy with what you created.”