In Walter Robinson’s life, everything revolves around Italian food. Whether he is cooking for his wife or the King of Jordan, nothing makes the chef happier than a perfect dish.
Walter Robinson is now the executive chef at daVinci’s in Springfield, but food had always played an important role in his life.
“I absolutely, positively love Italian food," said Robinson, who had been exposed to the smells and flavors of “alimento italiano” growing up in Brooklyn. "My favorite thing was spaghetti and meat balls when I was younger. Then I got turned on to stuffed cannelloni and pasta fagiole."
Now 36, Robinson has learned many of the secrets of Italian cuisine. His personal menu includes about 80 pasta sauces, all made without tomatoes.
“I especially liked his pasta and risotto," said Jeremia Cohen, a chef who once worked with Robinson. "They are really good. He’s a really pleasant person to work with and what stands out about him is that he was really well liked and popular among the staff."
Robinson, who described himself as a perfectionist, is married with a 3-year old son. Although he resides in Maryland, Robinson commutes to Springfield every day where he crafts his pasta and seafood dishes.
However, Robinson has not always done what he loves. At one point, Robinson worked as a logistic supervisor and was about to be promoted when he realized that it was not what he wanted to do. “I think I want to cook for a living,,” he remembered telling his wife:
“I knew I had to do this before I turned 80 years old,” he said. “I had to give it a shot."
NOW an executive chef, Robinson started his culinary journey at the New York Restaurant School in Manhattan, where he studied for two years. He then moved on to the Culinary Institute of America, where he was recruited to the penthouse of Manhattan’s Mt. Sinai Hospital, 11 West.
As one of the richest hospitals in the world, Mt. Sinai gave Robinson the unique opportunity to cook for celebrities such as Lionel Hampton, Mary Tyler Moore, Woody Allen and the royal family of Saudi Arabia. “We didn’t call them patients,” Robinson said. “We called them guests.”
Another milestone in Robinson’s career came when he was chef tournant, a kind of culinary jack-of-all-trades, at the Galileo Ristorante in Washington After Galileo, Robinson moved on to cook at The Four Seasons in Georgetown, and later Michelangelo’s in Annapolis. He also worked at the Woodmoore Country Club in Mitchellville, Md. Of all these experiences, he liked the restaurant environment the best.
From 1997 to 2000, Robinson taught culinary arts at the Anne Arundel Community College, outside of Annapolis. It was this experience that capitalized on his favorite part of being a chef — teaching. “I love teaching and watching my ideas come to life," he said.
A former co-worker, Paul Pelt, remembers this very side of Robinson: “I learned a good amount of things from him. He was a good teacher.”
Robinson enjoys serving the community in Springfield. “We’re trying to provide a place for people to go without having to go to Tysons Corner or Old Town Alexandria," he said. "We also try to educate people about Italian food. It’s not just spaghetti and meat balls or ravioli."