Chef Aaron Hanover has always loved food for the art and wonder it can create. At a young age, art was always a great outlet for his creativity, but the prospect of work behind a desk as a graphic designer day in and day out was an option that didn’t interest him. Food always seemed like a hands on artistic outlet that included few desks and endless possibilities for medians to work with. With his culinary degree from Pennsylvania Culinary, he started honing is skills in local restaurants and big corporate kitchens. Learning management, fine dinning, and banquets from names like Aramark, Marriott, Bob Evans, as well as working a few other local upstarts and private events. After a few years in the business working under corporate rule, he stepped out to create his own way. It’s been his motto to do it his own way. He worked in sales and marketing, kitchen design, and even became a national expert in sports memorabilia. All the while meeting chefs and trying all kinds of regional foods at the places only the locals would eat at. He wasn’t completely out of the industry, still doing small private events and catering weddings to keep his skills sharp. In 2010 he and his wife Allison, started the preliminaries for getting back full time in the kitchen. In June 2012 for his birthday, Aaron bought his kitchen- a 1974 ex-Phillidephia Fire Department Equipment Truck. It is his restaurant, his way. Called Mohawk Freestyle Grill named after the mohawk on Chef Aaron’s head and the way he runs a kitchen. He describes it as “an ever evolving style of food using local seasonal ingredient in an out of the box way.”
What is your favorite ingredient to cook with?
I like fresh local seasonal ingredients like when I was in Georgia for a year the Georgia coastal shrimp were the sweetest freshest shrimp, or Stone crabs in Florida, lobster, scallops, and clams in New England. Here I like the local Beef and bison and elk, it’s bigger and more flavorful when it hasn’t been frozen and shipped across the country. So I guess meat is a main ingredient of mine. Definitely bacon has to be a favorite also, but that’s seems like a cop out. you can’t go wrong with.
What ingredient do you dread?
Lima beans there just isn’t any reason for anyone to ever eat them, I’m not sure bacon can even make them better.
What’s your favorite dish to make?
I know as a chef I should say some crazy french something or some great souffle or something but at the moment I like making our Mohawk burger. It’s a ground ribeye steak blend that is messy and just a great classic burger made the right way. I love it when someone trying a dish I make goes -wow that was great. That is what makes it a Favorite to me it seems to always bring a smile to peoples faces.
What’s your favorite pig out food?
Anyone that has ever eaten with me will laugh at this question because anytime we go to a new restaurant or truck I tend to order way more than I need but I love to try new food and different interpretations of the dishes they make. So I’m always sitting at the table at a new place with like five plates, passing this one to this friend and saying “hey can I try that.” That is how I roll. Food wise though I tend to pig out on greasy foods like pizza and burgers, bar foods wings and the normal stuff.
What restaurant, other than your own do you like to dine at in the Miami Valley?
I like local authentic and original idea places, like Thai9, Coldwater Cafe, and definitely all the local food trucks.
What’s your best advice for home chefs?
Keep it simple. Sometimes salt and pepper is all you need, but you definitely always need them.
I thought about this pretty hard probably for my answers, too hard, but there are plenty that could take anyone of these four seats but here they are. Ty Cobb- he was hated and loved at the same time for being the best and most focused in his field and at the same time was never happy. He seems like now he may have some life lessons and I am forever a Detroit tigers fan. Teddy Roosevelt -he once rode a moose in a river – need I say more. Ernie Harewell- he seemed to be a great guy always had a funny story to tell and again I love baseball and the Tigers. Fourth seat is always reserved for my wife, you never can eat enough meals with your spouse and she has the best pallet I know, so afterward we could talk about the food and so she’d believe me when I said who was there.
Who do you look up to in the industry and why?
I have to look up to all the guys in trucks already, vastly more popular and successful than me. There are some great trucks already in the Miami Valley. A guy I’ve looked up to for years in the food industry is Scott Schmucker. An instructor and Chef extraordinaire at Art Institute Pittsburgh, who I had the privilege of having as an teacher at PA Culinary.
What do you do in the Miami Valley on a day off?
Swim in my pool. Look for other food trucks. My favorite days are when I go out and eat at three or four restaurants for lunch like an appetizer here, a side here, entree here, some desert here, some food shopping at Dorothy Lane Market and or a farmers market I come across, and then home to create something new.
As a food truck owner you’re always battling a vehicle as well as the normal kitchen issues. I’ve blown engines and had to tow my truck into an auction on a tow cord but this week after just getting a new engine, it broke down again. I towed the truck to the event and on the way home I realized that when they fixed the truck last they added a new fuse for the fuel pump and I had over looked that, looking for fixes for why it wasn’t running. I towed it 30 miles to Kettering and back before I realized my problem was a $1.10 fuse. It’s always something silly like that for me.