Towering above patrons and staff with a benevolent smile, Jimmy Holland is not easy to miss. Decked out in his personalized white coat and black backward cap, the sous chef is seen in the open kitchen prep stations, tasting sauces and concocting new recipes. Although he's friendly with customers and most regulars know him by name, he usually stays behind the scenes.
He may not be as recognized as head chef and restaurant namesake Angelo Elia, but Holland has worked tirelessly for the past 15 years at Casa D'Angelo and become an integral ingredient in the Italian eatery's longstanding success.
Born in Philadelphia, Holland used to watch his grandmother and mother cook in their rustic kitchen. It instilled in him an urge to pursue cooking professionally, and he was the first of his family of commercial fishermen to attend culinary school.
After moving to Florida, Holland worked as a general manager at a restaurant for a few years and then at a country club in Boca. He moved seasonally between New Jersey and Florida between the contradicting peak seasons. The aspiring chef would eventually move to Bon Appetit on Commercial Boulevard, where he familiarized himself with Italian cuisine. And then in 1998, he began working as sous chef at Casa D'Angelo one month after it opened. He marked his name in the wet cement outside where it was seen until recent outdoor renovations.
"I stumbled across the story in the newspaper of Casa D'Angelo's opening," Holland says. "It was one month after it opened, and I wanted to check it out. Angelo was skeptical about hiring me at first, but he did."
And for the past 15 years, Holland has diligently excelled at his job. He comes into the eatery at 1 p.m. every day, then checks the fish, makes the soup, preps the sauces, and starts cooking side dishes. If there is a lull, which in the reservations-recommended restaurant rarely happens, Holland enjoys tweaking new recipes to perfection.
"I have high standards, and I like good stuff now after working here," Holland boasts. "I don't stop at McDonald's and Burger King anymore. Denny's is also out. I find that even after a long day, I prefer to cook for myself."
Since the sous chef works until close, he doesn't get home most nights until very late. But when he isn't at work, which is hardly ever when the restaurant is open, Holland enjoys to go out to eat at other restaurants and learn from their menu. At home, he has two pug dogs, a tuxedo cat, and an African gray parrot that repeats everything he says. To relax, he watches cooking shows on Netflix before he goes to bed.
"I get amped up after watching cooking shows," Holland says, wide-eyed. "Hell's Kitchen, Top Chef-- those are my favorite."