My name is Greg Nalley, I am the founder of Nalley Fresh. With me food has always been a passion and it started with my grandmother when I was a young child growing up in the deep south, South Carolina. Food is a central part of what you do and my grandmother was always the great cook who thought outside the box and put different ingredients together. In South Carolina, you know you think of the food being rigid and is southern, you kind is pigeon holed into just southern food. But, there are so many different cultures that influenced the State of South Carolina from the Port of Charleston and through the years from the 1600s all the way up to today. So, all of these different cultures influenced the way we ate and my grandmother would always experiment with different things and from a young age I love building flavor. Just loved it. It came natural to me. Its probably the only thing in my life that comes natural to me is cooking. Everything else is a chore, this is not. I have always liked layering foods. I like layering flavors when I cook. When I cook I like to start and build flavors, you just don’t dump everything into a pot and cook it and it comes out great. It will come out good, but it is not going to come out great until you layer the flavors and the sweets and the sours, and the crunchies and the softs and all of these different textures and all of these different flavors are combined to get the end result and it is like a dance. You know it starts off slow and then it kind of weaves and then you are doing a couple of pirouettes and then you finally have the final product. So, yeah I have learned a lot and I was able to cultivate cooking through my grandmother.
Now fast forward I worked for my father in the concrete business for a long time and he had a very, very successful concrete business throughout the two Carolinas and I loved it, I loved that business but it wasn’t my passion. So when I turned 30, I started thinking, “man what can I do?, I want to do something, I just don’t feel fulfilled” and I was like I need to go to culinary school. I need to become a chef” and so I gave my dog away, sold my house and moved to Baltimore to go to culinary school and have been here ever since. I had never been in a commercial kitchen up until when I moved up here. I didn’t know if I was going to like it I did not know if it was going to be for me, but I had to do it. And then what I found out is what was true early in my life that this is not a chore, this comes natural. This is my Go d given talent is to cook and it comes easy for me. Got out of culinary school, started working at the racetracks for the Maryland Jockey Club and that was the one fantastic job, loved it, loved it, loved it. Stayed there 10 years and I got the opportunity to cook for presidents and cook for dignitaries and got to do everything from making sure the hotdog was cooked right to the fillet is perfect for the guest in the club room. But, the whole time I still wanted to… I was not fulfilled again, I felt like I needed to do more and I did not do it because I was comfortable in that job. I mean I had a good salary, I had everything in place, it was easy, insurance was great, benefits were great, the exposure was great, but just something was missing and it was me having my own place, but I still did not want to take that leap of faith.
And then in 2002 I got a really big old dose of cancer and it was a traumatic time and in looking back it’s probably one of the best things that ever happened to me. Because what it did it put morality right in the forefront and it got me, for a lack of a better word, fight through the fear of opening my own place and so I went wholeheartedly and opened my first restaurant, which was Harvest Table and that was down in Tide Point where Under Armour’s corporate offices are and they were… when I was starting out, they were couple of years ahead of me, their path has gone a little different than mine, but we are all in the same boat together with this thing. So, I had Harvest Table and again there I started spreading my wings a little bit with some things that I had learned and absorbed through the years going back to my grandmother, so I started doing all these crazy dishes there, specially for the Saturday and Sunday brunch where I was layering foods and back then nobody was.. It was like kind of weird. You know those kind of things I loved doing and I did not know if the customers will like it. You know its like whoa! Are they going to like this? I don’t care if they like it, I like it and they loved it. They absolutely loved it and it just solidified the fact that layered food is kind of what I like doing.