Fate has played an amazing role in Tom's life so far. After being accepted to medical school, he deferred for one year to live out a dream and attend the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan.
Tom went on to cook at some of Manhattan's greatest restaurants until he detoured again, spending two years at Morgan Stanley at the World Trade Center on the 73rd floor.
On September 11, 2001 -- Tom's 23rd birthday -- he managed to escape the offices when the planes hit: "My mom told me I was reborn that day. That the angels were escorting me down the stairs that day."
He studied for and took the medical board exams a second time, and entered Columbia University's medical school.
Tom became a co-chef and partner at Spy-C Cuisine after he spontaneously went there for lunch after a 24-hour hospital shift and thought their cucumber salad was the best he ever had.
Upon reflection, Tom says: "I call it synchronicity. Things that just happen and they happen for a reason."
MY DAD'S WOK
This is the wok my dad used growing up cooking. I would always watch my dad cooking his dishes. He made the best very rustic home-style dishes growing up. But with so much soul, so much flavor, and so much love. He was not a cook -- he was a pharmacist.
It's not a fancy wok. It's just black steel. It's very thin.
Every day as a family, we would have four to five different dishes with a big bowl of rice. My dad would know whether he cooked a good meal based on how many bowls of rice I would go back for.
Unfortunately, my dad passed away about six years ago. When he passed, we sold the house in Williamsville [near Buffalo]. It was the wok that was in our kitchen. A lot of things I just kept.
This is a wok with a handle that's used to cook one-item dishes. Fried rice. Any of the vegetables. Most of our dishes are cooked in that wok.
Every time I cook with the wok, and you get the "breath of the wok" -- the wok hei -- I think of my father. It brings me back to how I got started as a little kid watching him cook.
Tom still uses his father's wok in his restaurant's kitchen.