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Chef Sean Tener: Cooking with Gratification The Columbia, Maryland, dishes about camaraderie and cooking at Sub-Zero, Wolf and Cove

Chef Sean Tener, Sub-Zero Wolf and Cove | Photo by David Stuck

A graduate of the former L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Chef Sean Tener began his culinary career at Bibiana, a Washingtonian Top 100 restaurant. He transferred to Michelin-starred Italian restaurant Masseria in Washington, D.C., where he served as the chef de cuisine under Chef Nicholas Stefanelli. After his approximately two-year service to Officina at The Wharf and Ability Nutrition, Tener found his way to Sub-Zero, Wolf and Cove in Columbia, and he now serves as its corporate executive chef.

Upon purchasing a home in Columbia in 2017, Tener desired to create more balance between his work and family life, particularly after the birth of his child Jack in January 2019. After an illustrious culinary career in the Washington, D.C., restaurant industry, Tener said, “I was starting to think about how I could transition my skills to something that’s not going to require” the level of commitment that serving a restaurant in his professional chef capacity would, he says.

When he first saw the position opening at Sub-Zero, Wolf and Cove, he started researching the company, its operating philosophy and its employee culture. “I went through the interview process and they told me about the live cooking demonstrations that I would be doing in front of groups, and I’d never done that before,” he says. “I worked in open kitchens, so I wasn’t a stranger to being in front of people. There’s definitely a way of communicating with groups for an hour and a half, breaking the ice and getting to know people. It’s not so much a cooking show, but showing people how the (kitchen) equipment works.”

The Sub-Zero, Wolf and Cove showroom in Columbia, Maryland | Photo by David Stuck

Tener acknowledges that working in the Sub-Zero, Wolf and Cove space brings a different level of engagement than working in a restaurant kitchen. “Working in this showroom space, there are all kinds of equipment I get to use. I’ve used a lot of these pieces of equipment before but more in a commercial kitchen setting, like the induction cooktops and the convection steam ovens, gas ranges, grills and griddles set up to work in a residential home. I can be creating food and allowing people to enjoy it,” he says.

Having the outlet to engage and speak with guests who visit the showroom, he says, pleases him. He recalls fondly the times during his 12-year restaurant career in which he had opportunities to step out of the kitchen and speak with guests about the dishes people were enjoying.

“Sometimes it’s a demonstration, and sometimes it’s a one-on-one appointment that someone may have scheduled with me,” he says. “People get to have that delightful experience with food that we’re preparing, and watching people enjoy things is gratifying for me as well.”

When it comes to approaching the dishes he prepares for guests at the Sub-Zero, Wolf and Cove showroom, Tener says that he thinks carefully about the items he prepares.

Chef Sean Tener prepares gnocchi at the Sub-Zero, Wolf and Cove showroom in Columbia. | Photo by David Stuck

“Risotto and gnocchi are great to prepare in large batches” for cooking demonstrations, he says. “Thinking about the time in which it takes me to prepare things—especially for large groups of 20 or more—I try to work within the realm of seasonality. I try to pull from the memory bank of things I’ve done in the past and think about how I can mix things up a bit to keep it fresh.”

Tener turns to classic Italian dish preparations to keep his menu items fresh and fun. His Potato Gnocchi and Chiffon Cake with Crème Anglaise featured in the pages of the Baltimore Style Winter 2022 edition are evidence of his love for Italian cooking.

Tener offers a few suggestions for your holiday entertaining:

  • Homemade preserves, jams and jellies offer opportunities to infuse flavor into your dishes. Even homemade cranberry sauce can pack plenty of appeal.
  • Think about preparing homemade holiday libations. “My wife and I started doing this about a year or two ago, but we really like making the eggnog from scratch. You can make it boozy; you can make it not boozy. You can make it in big batches to enjoy.”

Those who are interested in upgrading their kitchen or who are considering a new build are invited to visit the Columbia showroom for a consultation. Gain inspiration, see the appliances in action, and depending on the day, sample some of Tener’s preparations. Interested parties can visit subzero-wolf.com/Columbia or call 443-276-2490.

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