Lake Q&A: Torrey Hall

Lake magazine is happy to introduce The Landing at Parker Creek Executive Chef Torrey Hall and his family to Lake Martin.

You grew up in Hawaii, trained at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and worked at restaurants in Maui and California before taking the executive chef role at The Landing at Parker Creek. Welcome to Lake Martin! What brought you from the beach scene to the lake?

My wife is originally from Auburn, so we decided to move from San Diego to raise our son close to family. Being near water is very important to me, so I was naturally drawn to an opportunity at the lake.

When did you make your first visit here and what was your first impression of the lake? Was that different than you expected?

We came to visit for a birthday trip a few years ago and stayed at a family friend’s house near StillWaters. Being out on the boat, watching the perfect sunset from the docks, I fell in love with Lake Martin immediately.

How long have you been here?

I met with Herb Winches around Memorial Day and knew teaming up at The Landing was the perfect fit. 

How have you been greeted and welcomed to the area?

So many people have made me feel like this is home by their kind words and excitement for my dishes. Herb has been a wonderful mentor and friend, and his wife Betty and their family have gone out of their way to make my family feel welcome. We have also taken up some of our customers’ hospitable offers to visit their homes on the lake. This is a very special community.

You discovered your passion for making great food at an early age. What do you love about cooking?

I started making sandwiches in a deli at age 14 and built a following pretty quickly. I believe my passion came from the endless creative possibilities, and the connection it builds with the people around me. The one thing I’ve learned in life: You love the food, and the food will love you back.

What are the top three elements that make a great meal?

It’s all about working with quality ingredients and allowing time to prepare a meal with thoughtfulness and creativity. Having a great team is also a must, and I have to give credit to our entire crew at The Landing. Everyone in my kitchen, as well as our front of house and bar staff, has an impressive work ethic and brings the best attitude every day. All that positive energy gets us through some long, but rewarding, days.

How did you get the nickname “Flyin’ Hawaiian?”

Growing up on the big island of Hawaii, I was always climbing coconut trees, jumping off cliffs and chasing down the biggest waves.

What is your signature dish at The Landing and what makes it special?

The filet mignon; it’s all in the rub. I also like to mix it up with different seafood specials. I would describe my style as Pacific Coastal Cuisine.

What is your favorite local ingredient and why?

The peaches from my backyard. The climate here is perfect for them, and it puts a smile on my face to see my 2-year old son, Kainoa, pick one from the tree and bite in.

You are married to Jordan Whitley, an award-winning sports journalist who recently joined the media team at the Atlanta Falcons. How do Jordan and you balance family life with two such demanding careers?

We have always made family a priority in all of our work/life decisions, and we make sure we get two quality days together with our son every week. We joke that my wife has the work schedule of an NFL player, so it’s fortunate that her “off-season” coincides with my time at the lake. I am hoping to get up to a couple of games to watch her work as an in-game host/reporter at Mercedes Benz Stadium this season. We also plan to open our fine food truck, Sword and Skillet (www.swordandskillet.com) in Auburn this fall at Bent Creek Grocery and will work opening hours around our family and her schedule.

What’s the most fun you’ve had at the lake so far?

On Sundays after closing, my family and I hop on a boat with our friends from Lake Martin Pizza Company, find a good spot to go swimming and then watch the sunset back at Parker Creek. Memorable moments for sure.

How did you meet Jordan?

We met in 2014 while she was working as a sports anchor for Fox 5 San Diego. One of her friends invited her to a dinner with the owners of the restaurant where I worked, and when I came out to check on the meal, I was immediately captivated by her smile and warmth. We had our first date at Torrey Pines Beach and have been together ever since.

What valuable life lesson have you learned from a child?

My son has taught me that the bond between a son and a father is priceless, as well as the importance of being present. I don’t want to miss a single moment with him. He loves the water as much as I do and spends hours playing with other kids on the beach at The Landing. I enjoy watching him play and build childhood memories in such a beautiful part of the South.