Many chefs have their first exposure to cooking at a young age. For Trever Champion, cooking with his older brother James as a young boy left a deep impression. “My mother worked a lot to support us. It was my brother, James, who kept my spirits high when things were low and cupboards were bare,” he explains.
Learning from his brother and armed with a propensity to face any challenge, Trever became quite crafty in the kitchen. “James and I had a game we liked to play. The goal was to see who could make something out of bread, potatoes, and whatever else we had to make some sort of meal to eat. At the time, that game kept our stomachs and our hearts full, but it also forced me to be creative and develop my passion for food.”
Champion began his career at the age of 14 as a dishwasher at Kent Manor Inn in Stevensville, Maryland. “Being a dishwasher is considered an unglamorous job by most people. But I quickly learned that every task in the kitchen is essential. Each task, no matter how tedious, needs proper execution. I was willing to do anything to be around real cooks and chefs,” Champion recalls. “I watched every move from seasoned dishwashers to line cooks to executive chef, wanting to absorb those early lessons in making and serving good food.”
At age sixteen, Trever enrolled in military school at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Champion became a leader to his peers. He earned the rank of Sergeant, graduating with several achievement awards, academic ace awards and medals. Champion was on the Honor Guard in addition to being Drill Team Commander and leader of his platoon. He found that those leadership skills and respect for position and rank translates all to well to running a restaurant kitchen.
Anxious to return to the kitchen, Trever’s first postgraduate job was at Mike’s Crab House in Riva, Maryland. There he learned how to handle large volume and began his education in culinary management. Mike’s is well known for serving some of the best crabs and seafood in the state. It wasn’t unusual for Trever to turn 1500 covers in an evening.
Wanting to move on from large volume casual food to creative fine dining, Champion worked at The Main Ingredient, a catering and dining establishment in Annapolis, prior to first joining Tsunami in 2000 as a young line cook. Eager to learn more about gourmet cooking and kitchen operations, Champion was fortunate to land a coveted apprenticeship at the Willard InterContinental in Washington, DC. “The chef at The Willard asked if I would like to become his student. He saw great potential in my work and my passion, and he wanted to help me hone my cooking technique. I was thrilled to accept his offer, even though it meant I would work long hours, and wouldn’t be paid,” Champion remembers. During the course of his apprenticeship, Champion also worked at Vidalia, the successful downtown DC restaurant of James Beard Award Winning Chef Jeffrey Buben.
The workload and training were grueling and humbling. “I worked forty hours each week at Vidalia and another forty-five at the Willard. I would spend three hours making a mirepoix only to have it thrown out for the tiniest imperfection. But I loved it, and I learned invaluable lessons that I still carry with me into my life and into my career today,” he says.
Champion worked in several other prominent Washington, DC restaurants before moving to Scottsdale, Arizona. He soon found himself at Zinc Bistro studying under former Thomas Keller sous chef, Matt Carter, and chef de cuisine, Rochelle Daniels. He also worked as chef de cuisine at The Herb Box during his time in Scottsdale before returning to Annapolis in 2013.
In 2015, Champion returned to Tsunami, the place he considers to be both home and the roots of his professional career. “When I returned to Tsunami as executive chef, my intent was to revamp the food and dining experience that people have long expected from us”, Champion explains. “Tsunami has long been the frontrunner of new, unexpected, innovative and cosmopolitan food in Annapolis. My mission is to continue that tradition.”
Champion lives in Annapolis with his fiancée, Marie, whom he met at Tsunami in 2002, and their 2-year old twins, a boy and a girl. After twenty years in the culinary industry, he says he is still just a student searching for more.
“Cooking is not a particularly difficult art, and the more you cook and learn about cooking, the more sense it makes. But like any art it requires practice and experience. The most important ingredient you can bring to it is love of cooking for its own sake.”
Mastering the Art of French Cooking
By Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle, and Julia Child