SYRACUSE—Never afraid of trying anything, Todd Ramer has tried a lot of occupations, including construction. But it wasn’t until he relocated to Florida more than 13 years ago he found an occupation he loves.
Today that occupation, a chef, has led him to fulfill a dream that was talked and joked about as a kid. Owning his own restaurant.
Ramer recently opened All Fired Up BBQ in Syracuse. Here, along with his father Gary, he prepares and shares long-time family recipes. “I’ve always enjoyed smoking meat and seafood,” he stated. In fact many items on the menu in his restaurant are staples in the family.
Ramer grew up in the Wa-Nee School district and graduated from NorthWood High School in 1989. During his high school years he was a member of the school’s swim team.
You could say his career actually began as a child. He always was helping his Grandmother Weaver or Grandmother Ramer cook. He learned a lot from them.
After dabbling in various occupations he relocated to Florida. While he had always smoked meat and seafood with his father, he started cooking dinners for friends at Thanksgiving and Christmas. “It started out with a variety of seafood for five. Four years later it was 46 people,” Ramer stated. His dinner spreads were simple fresh steamed blue crab, stone crab claws, Florida lobster, red fish, pompano, shnook and colossal shrimp, dumped out on butcher paper covering picnic tables.
The seafood, except the shrimp, was caught by him and a friend. They would go out and sit among the shrimp boats and catch all types of fish that came to feed on the shrimp remnants. Taking a bottle of Crown Royal and offering it to the shrimpers, resulted in an invitation to board their boats. In exchange, Ramer and his buddy were given coolers full of colossal shrimp. “I have a good relationship with the shrimpers now,” Ramer said. A phone call notifying the shrimpers he will be in the area results in arrangements at the local fish market to pick up his special shrimp – which also meets the food service requirements for restaurants.
After a few years of preparing the holiday feasts, Ramer was told he should look into becoming a chef. “But it fell on deaf ears at first,” Ramer admitted. Then after more and more people told him he should pursue that career, he did and went to a culinary school.
For 13 years he worked in restaurants preparing Japanese and/or French cuisine. He was taken under the wings of several chefs, including a Japanese chef who is half the size of Ramer but with the ego of a grizzly bear. “This is unheard of, a Japanese chef taking an American under his wing,” said Ramer adding the chef liked Ramer’s work ethic.
“A lot of humble pie had to be eaten,” Ramer said of his experience under other chefs. He noted what is shown on the reality show “Hell’s Kitchen” with Gorden Ramsey is truly what happens in a successful kitchen. “What they don’t show is the chef is passionate about what he is doing and he cares for everyone and wants the best for everyone in his/her restaurant.”
He returned to Indiana four years ago and attempted to work in other kitchens. But the pay was not good and he found the culinary aspects were gone in the restaurants. Processed, precooked foods, heating and reheating were the norm instead of putting a lot of love into the food prepared.
If you ask Ramer about his hobbies, there are two he will tell you about — salt water fishing and his 5-year-old son Aston.
“I got into salt water fishing in Florida. We would go out at 8-9 a.m. and return at 10-11 p.m. You lose track of time. It is an opportunity to get out and away – no cellphones. It’s tranquil,” said Ramer.
He spends a lot of time with his son, his “little buckaroo.” After years of being footloose and fancy free, he has found his son copies everything he does and picks up on his father’s mood. “It’s amazing what a little boy can do to better you.”
Ramer and his wife opened up the restaurant in mid-December and he’s living his dream. “The only thing missing is grandpa (Ramer).” His grandfather was killed by a drunk driver, which is why no alcohol is served at the restaurant.