This cook's a Crook
Sulphur Springs native returns to head restaurant after stints as executive chef at luxury hotels

Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor

Raymond Crook (right), a Hopkins County native and executive chef with 27 years experience, made his way back to his hometown of Sulphur Springs to take over as chef at Holiday Gardens restaurant inside Holiday Inn. The hotel is undergoing extensive renovations, and full-service training general manager Joseph Lang (left) said Lang feels that he was fortunate to run across Crook.
Staff photo by Angela Pitts

July 5, 2005 - Holiday Gardens is blooming again. After a little pruning, the full-service restaurant inside Holiday Inn, located at 1495 East Industrial Drive, is back in business with hopes of "being better than ever," according to Raymond Crook, a Hopkins County native and executive chef with 27 years experience, who recently made his way back to his hometown of Sulphur Springs.

"I'm not facetious enough to say I'm the best cook in town, but I will say I'm the only chef," laughed Crook, who came home two months ago to help care for his aging grandmother.

Crook left the area in 1973, and later joined the Army, where he served as a cook. The U.S. Army then sent him to culinary school in Washington, D.C., where he studied under French chef Bernard Binon, who taught him to cook French, Italian, American and Mediterranean cuisine. Soon he was working in the Officer's Mess, preparing exotic dishes for lieutenants and colonels.

In 1983, as a member of the U.S. Army culinary team,Crook placed fourth worldwide at the Culinary Arts Competition held at Fort Lee, Va.

After his service in the Army, Crook was recruited by Marriott Hotels, where he was employed as an executive chef for 16 years at hotels such as J.W. Marriott and The Mayflower, both luxury hotels in Washington, D.C.

Besides all that fancy stuff, Crook said he knows how to cook for East Texans, especially since he learned from both his father and his uncle, Julius Pitts, who were in the restaurant business for years in Hopkins County.

And what he doesn't know, he said, he can always look up on the Internet, or better yet, call his grandmother.

"Locker links," catfish, red beans and rice, cabbage and lots of other favorite family recipes will be on his menu.

"I do get a sparkle in my eye when my customers enjoy their food," he said.

Crook's all new wait staff will be dressed in black and white semi-formal attire, with kitchen employees dressed in chef jackets and pants.

"This is going to be a place you can get dressed up and take your date to or celebrate a special occasion," explained Crook.

The hotel itself is going through a rebirth of sorts. Joseph Lang, a full-service training general manager from the metropolitan area, was brought to Sulphur Springs to "whip the place back into shape."

Lang feels that he was fortunate to run across Crook, who already knows how to manage the food and beverage department.

According to Lang, he and Crook have spent the last month getting renovations into gear. With landscaping, pool and remodeling projects all under way, a grand opening should follow by this fall.

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