While Aviary Wine & Kitchen’s executive chef, Thomas Calhoun, claims he does not have a particularly “romantic answer” to explain why he got into cooking, it is abundantly clear he was always destined for a culinary career.
Originally from Houston, Texas, Calhoun moved to Phoenix, Ariz., around the age of six. He was first exposed to cuisine by his parents, who prepared many different varieties of food at home. This generated an initial interest, which was further solidified in adolescence at the culinary arts program he attended at the East Valley Institute of Technology magnet school. Wanting to explore other interests before taking a career plunge, Calhoun spent some time studying art and health. However, his passion for cooking led him to enroll at the former Scottsdale Culinary Institute (now the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts – Scottsdale). During this time, Calhoun decided to shift his focus from savory to pastry, graduating with an associate of Occupational Studies degree in 2007.
Calhoun’s professional career began in 2007, with an internship followed by a position at the Sonnenal Resort in Vail, Colo. In 2008, he moved to Cedar Park, Texas, and took a sushi apprenticeship at the former Hyashi Sushi & Grill. After moving to Austin, Texas, in 2010, Calhoun gained further experience at some of the city’s finest restaurants, including La Condesa, Uchi, Uchiko and Sway. By 2014, Calhoun had established himself as one of Austin’s finest new culinary talents and landed the position of pastry chef at the much-renowned South Austin restaurant, Lenoir. Calhoun joined the Aviary Wine & Kitchen team in February of 2017.
As executive chef of Aviary Wine & Kitchen, Calhoun handles the creation and execution of the menu and recipe development. He also assisted in the design of Aviary’s kitchen. Calhoun describes his style as constantly evolving and states, “If I don’t know how to do something, I’m going to put lots of energy into learning that technique.” Indeed, one is always learning in the kitchen, which is something he always imparts to his staff. Teamwork is also paramount to Calhoun, who recognizes the importance of harmony in terms of a kitchen’s growth and sustainability.
In his spare time, Calhoun enjoys outdoor activities such as swimming and biking, collecting art and records, learning new instruments, reading and naturally, cooking.