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Credit: Skye Gillispie

It’s not often you find a teenager who knows exactly what path they want to pursue in life, but recent Southold High School graduate and aspiring chef John Charles Funke, is. Today you can find him working as a grillman at The Market Whole Foods & Café ​​in Greenport.

His time in the BOCES Culinary Program, as well as working with local food enthusiasts, piqued his interest in the food industry. Funke recently received the outstanding internship award from BOCES for his work-study program at The Market, which he balanced with being a full-time student and athlete.

Come fall, he’ll be pursuing a degree through Suffolk County Community College’s Culinary Arts program.

We got into the kitchen with John to learn more about his passion for North Fork ingredients and how he strives to integrate them into his culinary career.

Q: What sparked your interest in cooking?

A: My first job was working at KK’s The Farm in Southold. She [KK Haspel] was a huge mentor in my life and she really made healthy food seem important. Her guidance solidified the idea that what you put into your body truly matters and I’ve taken that with me.

Q: What was it like working as a grillman at a busy c​afé​all while being a high school student and athlete?

A: It was always exciting. It kept me on my toes and instilled strong drive to work as hard as I can to be efficient as well as deliver quality food.

Q: You recently received an award for an Outstanding Internship from BOCES. What did you take away from your internship at The Market?

A: I learned to embrace a healthier diet. Being at The Market surrounded by organic foods, I learned the importance of non-GMO products as well as vegetarian and vegan cuisine. It was an eyeopening experience.

Q: What are some of your career aspiration?

A: I’d like to focus on farm-to-table and utilize the North Fork’s fresh, local produce. By working with fresh, organic foods at The Market I’ve been able to begin to do so.

Q: You’re passionate about farm-to-table cooking. What is your favorite North Fork ingredient to cook with?

A: My favorite local ingredient to use are heirlooms tomatoes from KK’s in Southold. They have incredible flavor. I also like to use local spuds- potatoes.

Q: What is your favorite dish to make?

A: I love to prepare vegan burgers. They’re molded with a combination of red lentils, garlic, sunflower & pumpkin seeds as well as long grain brown brown rice.

Q: Fifteen years from now, where do you see yourself?

A: I’d like to see myself helping others. I want to show people that it is possible to eat wholesome foods and enjoy it. I see myself cooking healthy dishes with ingredients that come right from the North Fork.