"So Delicious . . . It Rhymes"
TOMMY B'S PHILLY CHEESE
Parsippany, NJ 07054
My Cheesesteak "Biography"...
I grew up in Allentown, PA, back in the 1960's. My grandmother would take me shopping for school clothes at Hess's & Leh's department stores, and we would always go to "The Look Steak Shop" on 8th street to have their delicious Philly Cheesesteaks. The steak shop was owned by a dear older couple, named George and Rose Hararas. They would always smile when they served me the cheesesteak, because they knew that in a matter of minutes, there would be a big smile on my face too! And that first bite...oh yeh!!! (George lived until he was 102 years old !!!)
Another influence on my love for Cheesesteaks, was Vince Cocca Sr., a gentleman who started a cheesesteak business in the basement of his home in Allentown PA, in 1957. What an experience! And then he opened a drive-in restaurant on Walbert Avenue...and when I moved out to South Whitehall Township in 1974, I began to frequent Vince's Drive-In, for, what else? CHEESESTEAKS. And again, I have to tell you truthfully, Vince was always smiling when he served me the cheesesteaks. Maybe that's why I associate smiling & cheesesteaks! Why not?!!! Then, Vince opened a one-of-a-kind Double Drive-Thru on 15th Street in Allentown. I was absolutely amazed at the ingenuity of this gentleman. And of course, Vince's always is present at the Allentown Fair in the summer time. Vince Sr. passed away in 2008, and now Vince Jr. carries on his father's tradition. I will always be thankful to those who passed down the "cheesesteak heritage", namely, my grandmother; George and Rose Hararas; and finally, Vince Cocca Sr.
The Food Industry was in my future...so in High School I attended 3 years of Food Services at the Lehigh County Vocational Technical School in Schnecksville, PA, spending 3 years learning from instructor Mr. Dean Ritter (retired in 2008). Thank you Mr. Ritter for such fine instruction!!!
In 1974, I got my first job in the food industry as a Dishwasher $1.50/hour at The Roundtable restaurant at 19th & Roth Avenue, Allentown. I wanted to learn cooking so badly, but the owner told me he didn't have room on the schedule for another cook. Well, I asked if I could come in after school and learn to cook (on my own time...not be paid), and he agreed. I'm happy to report that, after about a month of "volunteering" to learn, the owner said that I proved myself and earned a promotion from dishwasher to cook. The owner, Michael "Skip" Germano, and his wife Joan, were always good to me, and taught me so many lessons about running a fine restaurant. (Skip & Joan are still active in the business, operating The Fairgrounds Hotel in Allentown).
In 1977 '78, during my junior & senior years of High School, I had the privilege of working at the famous Hess's Patio Restaurant, inside Hess Brothers department store. I have fond memories of the years I worked at Hess's Patio.
In 1979, I took a job managing the kitchen at Perkins Restaurant, and learned the value of consistency in recipe and excellence in customer service. I remember learning how to position the food on a plate, at a certain position, to enhance the "symmetry". To this day, Perkins' pancakes are my favorite!
While working at Perkins, I "moonlighted" by working as a Bartender at Bill Daniel's Rock Palace, aka Bill Daniel's Music Factory.
Still in 1979/1980, I polished my craft of being a Mixologist at Saylor's Restaurant at 19th and Tilghman Streets in Allentown. I became quite proficient at mixing high-quality cocktails. The "tip jar" was probably the best part of the job.
In 1980/81, I worked for THE ASPEN GROUP, (Aspen Inn, Bethlehem, PA), a company that operated casual restaurants in PA and North Carolina. I learned a great deal about the functioning of a multi-unit restaurant operation. Dave Ritter (Dean Ritter's brother), was the VP of Operations, and Jeff Fredericks was the Manager of Food Operations. They both taught me how to maintain high levels of food quality, while doing high volume...and to make a profit doing so.
From late 1981 to September of 1983, I worked brief stints at several places. The experiences of working at various places helped me add to my repertoire of dishes, and also to learn how to operate various foodservice venues.
For example, I worked at The George Washington Motor Lodge, located on 7th Street in Allentown. I learned how to coordinate an effective Room Service Menu, and came to appreciate the reason Room Service prices are what they are...it's a lot of work to get good food, HOT, up to room 318...
I worked as a Kitchen Manager at Shepherd Hills Country Club in Wescosville. This job taught me how demanding members of private clubs can be to the food staff...I found this job to be too political and unfulfilling. But I did learn how to revamp a poorly-run kitchen and get it going in the right direction...then I went in the right direction (out the door). :)
I briefly worked for the M.W.Wood Company, at Muhlenberg College Dining Facility. Wood was a fine employer, and I learned how to make LARGE QUANTITIES of food, without sacrificing quality. (I opened more #10 cans during my stint with Wood Dining, than any other time in my foodservice career).
In 1982/83 I worked at a restaurant located in Schnecksville, PA, at a store called King's IGA. (Now Weis Markets). I really enjoyed working at this restaurant, and learned how to cook Pennsylvania Dutch food. It is here, at King's IGA, that I refined my grill skills and became quite the proficient grill-meister. :)...Randy Katzman, a Manager with the supermarket, was always encouraging to me. Jay King, the owner, was such a good guy...very down to earth and approachable. He treated me good, and I always felt appreciated by Mr. King.
Then, I worked briefly at a place in Hazleton, PA, called Booty's Place, owned by Mr. Louis Beltrami. (Mr. Beltrami's nickname is Booty). I learned how to make delicious marinara sauce, and how to make absolutely delicious meatball and mozzarella (or as mozzarella is affectionately known in Hazleton as "SCAMUTZ") sandwiches. Oh boy, those "Meatball & Scamutz" sandwiches!!! Deelish! I learned how to cook these delicious grilled sandwiches from several dear older ladies who lived all their lives in Hazleton, and cooked for Mr. Beltrami as a grandmother cooks for her grandchildren. Also, Mr. Beltrami imported Italian chefs from Canada, and these chefs knew how to make the finest of italian foods. What a great experience I had here, albeit brief.
To continue gathering cooking experience, I did some Line Cook work at Magnolia's Vineyard in Orefield, PA, for the owner Mark Ragosky. This was a reunion of sorts, because Mark was an executive with the Aspen Group before he became a restaurant owner himself, along with his wife Caryn.
When I moved to Milford PA to take the teaching job, I did some line cooking at the MT. HAVEN RESORT, operated then by the Filone family. I remember how dedicated Johnny Filone was, working so hard to give the guests a great meal. They served quality food, and I enjoyed making a few dollars while learning.
In 1983, I was very pleased to be appointed Teacher of Food Services at Delaware Valley High School in Milford, PA. I was only 23 years old. I taught grades 9 thru 12. The students and I actually operated a public restaurant as part of the curriculum. Roger Starzan and Tom Finan hired me. They were so good to me, very encouraging and supportive. Mr. Starzan passed away many years ago, and Mr. Finan retired in 2009.
I will never forget this: In September, 1984, my foodservice class and I participated in a festival called "Pike County Days". We paid for a booth, and we featured...PHILLY CHEESESTEAKS !!! We made the festival smell so good with the onions caramelizing on the grill, and the steak meat grilling and the cheese melting...our booth was a success and we raised plenty of money for our Foodservice program. And, we had lots of FUN !!!
This is the picture, 1984 at Pike County Days:
For about 18 months (1984-1985), while teaching school "by day", I was hired as a consultant for the Flo Jean Restaurant, located in Port Jervis, NY. So I worked nights and weekends training staff, revamping the Menu...worked so hard, but we had a very satisfying experience of turning things around. Here's an old newspaper clipping from that time...so long ago:
Well, then in 1986, after 3 years teaching at Delaware Valley High School in Milford PA, I opened a place called The Polar Bear, in Matamoras. We had lines and lines of smiling people for our delicious Philly Cheesesteaks and fresh-cut fries, our frosty chocolate shakes, and fresh-squeezed lemonade. People would come to our "walk-up window", and watch us cut the potatoes into french fries, and they could see us grilling the cheesesteaks...right before their very eyes! It was very satisfying to see customers smiling, and giving us "2 thumbs up" after their first bite!
But after a summer season in Matamoras, family priorities required me to work another type of job, so I went into food sales with Pocono Produce company from Stroudsburg, PA. I spent 10 wonderful years with that great company, and that is where my nickname, "Tommy B" came from. A dear soul by the name of Jim Driebe, would call me Tommy B, because there were 3 salesmen with the name of "Tom", so I became TOMMY B. (Thanks Jimmy!)
I am deeply saddened to report that Jim Driebe passed away in August, 2011. He will always be missed, and will never be replaced.
Well, after 10 years with Pocono, I went into my own Food Brokerage business in September 1996, called Pioneer Food Brokerage Company. I thoroughly enjoyed 15 years of food sales representing top-quality food products, and having the pleasure of working with some really fine owners, such as: KASAS PIZZA, made in Stroudsburg, PA, by "my favorite pizza man" Michael Kasapov. My opinion is there is not a better frozen pizza on the market today than KASA'S.
Mr. Kasapov is a family man, with his family working in the pizza factory every day...just a really fine company to support and sell for !!!
As a matter of fact, I think I may still be on Kasas website, presenting the pizza. Back then I was a younger man...PIZZA VIDEO
Also, I had lots of fun selling the finest Pecan Pies made from Bob Cotten, and scrumptuous Focaccia bread and delicious handmade Flatbreads from a company called Danny Britts Baking Co. in Linden, NJ, a company that makes all their products by hand, and the owner, Gerry Orlando...he named the company after his 2 daughters, Danielle & Brittany. In the summer of 2013, Danny Britts came out with an exciting new product, and they are calling it: Britt's Bitts...a mini crust that makes a wonderful canvas for a Chef to top with anything the imagination can inspire! Gerry Orlando from Danny Britt's...Another good family man!
I had the honor of selling LA VALLE Italian Tomatoes, which, in my opinion, are unmatched in quality. The owners were a joy to work with, and their products are absolutely wonderful. Bravo! LA VALLE.
Other fine companies I had the privilege of representing were Caesar's Pasta, with Ray Lodato and family; also, fantastic smoked salmon from Perona Farms in NJ; and my favorite Clam Chowder & Bisque from Chincoteague Seafood, working with Len Rubin. In Fundraising, I had the privilege of doing business with Jim Messina and Michael Gambuzza, from Ashley Farms Inc, located in Pompton Plains, NJ. In my opinion, Ashley Farms provides service at a level unmatched in the Fundraising business. And they do have fun!
In December 2014, I returned to Pocono ProFoods, and enjoyed 17 months back with the company, selling in Morris County.
Since June 25th, 1999, I have operated and managed a State-Licensed Group-Home for disabled adults called Cheshire Home, here in Parsippany,NJ. I also have oversight of another group home in Florham Park. Once again, I am blessed to have a wonderful boss, Executive Director George Zeitler. George has always been a big support of TOMMY B'S, encouraging me to scout good locations and make it happen. I admire Cheshire Home's concept of specialized care for young adults with physical disabilities, and I consider it a blessing, an honor and a privilege to be here, now in my 18th year!
Below is a picture taken on September 16, 2012. I'm running my first 5K Run, for the Cheshire Home Annual 5K Fundraiser.
On November 7, 2008, Cheshire Home invited TOMMY B'S to do a "Philadelphia Foods" Theme Day for their Dining Room, and, they told me it was the MOST SUCCESSFUL event their Dietary & Recreation department had ever hosted at Cheshire Home. As promised, TOMMY B'S is FUN !!!
Tommy B's Philly Cheese, "So Delicious...it Rhymes", was an idea I developed with the help of my daughter. Basically, I took my childhood memories of trips with my grandmother to "The Look Steak Shop"; remembered the fun & success of "Pike County Days" in 1984 with my students; then added my fond memories of "The Polar Bear" in 1986, and wanted to develop a FUN, Professional, Branded-Image food concept, specializing in a sandwich that people love...Philly Cheesesteaks!!!
Tommy B's is affordable for the hardworking entrepreneur who wants to avoid high debt and doesn't want to pay a percentage of sales every month to the franchisor. People love cheesesteaks, and the Philly Cheesesteak has been around since the 1930's and continues to grow in popularity no matter what the economy is doing. CHEESESTEAKS are GOOD FOR BUSINESS.
What is happening right now? Tommy B's is looking for hardworking owners who want to add something NEW to their existing business... with an Affordable Trademark Licensing Agreement.
NO ROYALTIES to pay...you keep the profits!
I'm absolutely convinced that if you keep things honest, simple, FUN, delicious, and of course, Professional, you have a great chance of succeeding at your food business. It's not easy, but it can be done. People have to eat !!!
With the addition of a TOMMY B'S PHILLY CHEESE at your location, I'm sure that you'll be bringing smiles to your customers, just like George & Liz did for me more than 40 years ago in Allentown.
And there should be a smile on your face too; because when you add TOMMY B'S to your business, your cash register should be smiling with increased traffic & sales. I hope we can work together one day soon...
1986- my daughter and I - just 1 month before opening the Polar Bear in Matamoras PA
p.s. my dear grandmother passed away several years ago. As a matter of fact, all my grandparents are gone now. My grandparents were a big part of my upbringing. I was blessed to grow up with both sets of my grandparents living just blocks from my home. I must say grandparents are very special; and when they're gone, it's a sad thing indeed...how I long for the day when the Bible's promise recorded at John 5:28,29 comes true!
Please be sure to visit the HOMEPAGE of this site
A FUN QUESTION FOR YOU:
What do you say when you're hungry for BOTH a Tommy B's Philly Cheese and a Tommy B's Chocolate Freeze:
PLEASE NOTE: Tommy B's Philly Cheese and TOMMY B'S are protected Registered Trademarks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
Also, the following are Trademarks of Tom Barrett, dba TOMMY B'S and TOMMY B'S PHILLY CHEESE:
"So Delicious...It Rhymes!" TM
"GIMMEE A CHEESE AND A FREEZE!" TM
TOMMY B'S CHOCOLATE FREEZE! TM
TOMMY B'S Fresh-Lemon SQUEEEEZE! TM
TOMMY BURGER TM
TOMMY TATERS TM
TOMMY DOGS TM
TOMMY B'S PHILLY CHEESE
Parsippany, NJ 07054