interview condensed and edited by EJ Toudt
Ian Hock has made a name for himself as chef at Norfolk’s Codex restaurant, but this summer he will also take over as executive chef at The Veil’s new location in the same city. We sat down with him to talk food, history and the key to a great chicken liver tart.
What is one of your first memories of food?
It’s got to be when I was 6 or 7, going to get Chinese with my family at Imperial Palace in Rochester, New York. I remember being overwhelmed by it —all the new smells and everything; that kind of stuck with me.
How did you become a chef?
It was happenstance to be honest with you. In high school, I needed a job. I did landscaping in the summer and the winter in Rochester, you know, it’s cold, snowy, so, I started washing dishes and just kind of became enthralled with the chefs. Seeing how they ran the kitchen and the care and everything else that went into running their restaurant. It was kind of a hobby and a part-time job for a while. I went to college for a couple of semesters studying history and then realized studying history was more fun to do when it wasn’t mandated. So, I left school and had some odd jobs for awhile. I had an opportunity to cook and moved to this area about 17 years ago. After that, it just really started clicking. The first place I cooked was actually the Belvedere Coffee Shop (in Virginia Beach). And from there I ended up going to Johnson & Wales (University). Then I started jumping around in the area.
What one thing do you always have in your kitchen?
I always have peanut butter in the cupboard. Peanut butter, man, a great snack all the time, and I use it for peanut butter toast.
What is the biggest challenge of being a chef?
To be honest with you, cooking’s the easy part. It’s everything else. It’s the management of people, structuring your time and just the whole business aspect of it. It’s easy to cook and that’s why we do it, to cook, to create.
What’s your favorite dish at Codex?
I would say right now it’s the chicken liver tart. It’s one of the most simplistic things that we do there, but it’s also the most refined. We’ve gotten a lot of coverage on it, but I think for good reason. It’s one of the things that I’ve made that I’m most proud of.
Where did you get the name Codex?
The name Codex came from my late father. He was a photographer. He had a project that dealt with a series of Polaroid transfers. He was one of the innovators of color transfer. The series that he did was called Codex. It was a tribute to him.
How did you come up with the menu?
It’s a take on a lot of different things that I’ve done, places I’ve traveled and things that I’ve really enjoyed. It’s just honest food. It’s simple. It’s not pretentious. It’s a few ingredients with a lot of attention to the details.
So, you’re going to be the executive chef at The Veil when it comes to Norfolk, right? How did that come about?
Yes, I’ve been friends with Matt Tarpey and his wife, Michelle, for years. When they decided to open (another location) in the Norfolk area, he called me almost immediately and said, “Hey man, we’re thinking about doing this and we want you to be a part of it.”
Are you going to continue to do Codex after The Veil opens?
Absolutely. I’ll be at The Veil to get it up and running and then back and forth between the two.
What types of things are going to be on the menu?
We’re going to have the same quality food as Codex; obviously volume-wise it’s going to be much larger. We’ll have a burger on there. Maybe some kind of lettuce wraps. Good, upscale bar food. We’re not going to be fine dining by any stretch of the imagination.
When are they planning to open?
From what we are hearing, the plan is late June, early July. But you know, that can all kind of go with a grain of salt depending on what we find when we start doing construction in the building.
Any light you can shed on plans for the building, which used to be the Norfolk Chophouse, right?
Yes! It’s going to be a lot different, with a rooftop deck and so on. You know, it used to be a car dealership in the 1930s, so if you’re looking out of the restaurant, Toast, that garage door is actually a functioning driveway. They’re gonna rip the roof off of that and turn it into, like, an outdoor bar. I think it’s going to breathe a little bit of a new life into what’s going on in that area. You know, other fun businesses will pop up and hopefully it turns into Norfolk’s version of (Richmond’s) Scott’s Addition.