If you ask The Gourmet owner Craig Rinkerman what a first-timer should order at his new restaurant in Towson’s Kenilworth Mall, he can’t limit himself to one or two items.
“Start with a nice craft cocktail or beer,” he says, “then move on to the Chesapeake fried green tomatoes topped with crabmeat and béarnaise sauce or the French onion soup with a roasted onion that lines the bowl…or maybe order the spicy Louisiana.” gumbo, then get some nachos or fresh seared tuna or one of our six fresh fishes.”
If Rinkerman sounds enthusiastic, that’s because he’s worked in hospitality for nearly 50 years, still rising early each day to do what he loves. And he now shares his passion with his family. His wife, Cristina, recently became the day manager at his other property, The Catonsville Gourmet, and his son, Mateo (pictured with his father), is his general manager in Kenilworth.
“I have no regrets other than being told I’ll be working weekends and holidays for the rest of my life,” says Rinkerman, “but at least I work with my family.”
Why did you decide to open a second spot in Towson?
When the property at Kenilworth was offered to us by [developers] Greenberg Gibbons, they said that they wanted a Baltimore-based family business—they didn’t want to do a chain or something commercial, and they thought of The Catonsville Gourmet. I originally wasn’t interested—you know, heavy is the head that wears the crown, and I didn’t need another project.
What made you change your mind?
I am surrounded by a lot of good people—I have a great chef, Rob Rehmert. My son, Mateo, is very active in the business, and my wife wanted to grow in the business after doing mortgages for many years. I figured that expanding was the right thing to do for all of us, something for everyone to participate in for the next 10 or so years.
Are there differences in the menus between the two locations?
It’s the same exact menu, with a few more house specialties that we made permanent at Kenilworth. We mirrored the menu because that’s our success. We also have a full lounge bar at Kenilworth and piano music on Friday and Saturday nights. We have a liquor license at Catonsville, but it’s more than a table service license to serve drinks and bottles of wine at the table.
How did you get your start in hospitality?
I got a job as a busboy at the Marquis de Lafayette in Cape May. I always admired what was going on in the kitchen. There was a European chef there, and he said to me, “Do you want to work in the kitchen, young man?” And I said, “Chef Paul, I’d love to—I want to learn how to make soup.” The first two or three weeks, all I did was mise en place and cut vegetables. I had calls on my hands from peeling potatoes, but he taught me the right way. I didn’t go to school for it, but I’m a trained chef.