The chef on leave keeps his skills up to date by serving gourmet menus to his children at home

Nine months ago, Aron Schwartz oversaw 60 kitchen workers and over $ 15 million in annual food and beverage sales at a downtown San Diego hotel.

Today the 45-year-old father-of-two describes himself as “the lunch man”, making gourmet multi-course menus every day for his children, who are learning remotely at home due to the pandemic .

After 14 years at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina Hotel, Executive Chef Schwartz was put on leave at the end of March and has not worked since. To keep his cooking skills sharp and avoid going ‘crazy’, the Carmel Valley resident has replaced Mr. Mum year round while his wife, Pam, works full time as the manager of Ranch 45, a fast food restaurant. and relaxed. Solana beach market.

“As a chef who oversaw several things, it’s a very strange experience not to have something on your plate,” he said. “Making meals at home for the kids has helped that. Their lunch is very gourmet. They dine.

Aron Schwartz cooks salmon and broccoli lessons for the gourmet lunches he cooks every day for his children Max, 14, and Rhyan, 12, since being on leave last March from his job as a executive chef in a downtown hotel.

(Bill Wechter / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Although the pandemic was a curse, Aron Schwartz said it was a blessing to have so much time with their children, 14-year-old son Max and 12-year-old daughter Rhyan. Chef jobs are known for their long hours. Before his leave, Schwartz said he only saw his kids for about 30 minutes a day or on FaceTime. But going so long without seeing his “work family” of employees has been difficult.

As a San Diego native, Schwartz said his pressure relief valve has always surfed. But when he was put on leave, local beaches were closed, so he didn’t have an outlet to deal with his stress and grief.

Pam Schwartz said it was extremely difficult to watch her husband and coworkers spend such a long time away from the jobs they love.

“They were so used to working with their hands, so pulling the plug out and telling them they can’t do anything anymore was really, really hard,” she said.

The Schwartzes met in culinary school in the mid-1990s. After graduation they worked for restaurants in the Northeast, then in Las Vegas and finally in 2001 they moved to San Diego. For five years, he was chef at the Bernard’O restaurant in Rancho Bernardo before joining the Marriott Marquis in 2006 as sous-chef and becoming a manager.

Chef on leave Aron Schwartz serves lunch to his children Max, left, and Rhyan, right.

Chef on leave Aron Schwartz serves lunches of miso soup, teriyaki salmon, broccoli, steamed sushi rice and kampachi sashimi to his children Max, left, and Rhyan, right, at their home in Carmel Valley.

(Bill Wechter / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Even before the pandemic arrived in San Diego, Schwartz said there were worrying signs of trouble. Business started to slow in February, and then conference bookings were canceled one after another. At first her hours were reduced from five days a week to four, then all operations abruptly ceased at the end of March.

In the months that followed, Schwartz said he was collecting unemployment benefits, but it was only a fraction of the money he made at the hotel. Fortunately, he had accumulated a lot of paid time off in recent years, which supplemented his earnings. In early December, he received a letter from Marriott extending his leave until the end of April. Recently he started helping out at Ranch 45, cooking a few evenings a week during dinner service.

At the start of the pandemic, Schwartz shopped for groceries for basic necessities as well as gourmet foods like truffles, risotto and saffron. Eating well is a family passion, even for children, so he wanted to smash up some luxury items before they became scarce.

The “school meals” at home started out as a way to pass the time, but Schwartz said her children have come to cherish this part of their day, which begins around 11:30 am, when Max usually has his lunch break. one hour online. school. Rhyan’s lunch break arrives an hour later, so she gets her own solo meal service.

Because both kids love Japanese food, some of their favorite homemade dishes during the three- to four-course meals are miso soup, fresh ramen, sautéed broccoli with steamed rice, and teriyaki salmon. He also makes beef stews, homemade chicken fillets and desserts. Children enjoy meals so much that they no longer want cold breakfasts.

Nonetheless, Schwartz said he looks forward to the day when everyone can resume their old routines. Yet despite the difficulties, he would not trade the time he spent this year with his children.

“It became this opportunity that I never would have had in a million years,” he said. “So I’m grateful for that. “

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