Jonathan Glass

Nonna’s Taste of Italy
Raleigh, NC
Chef Swap Ingredient:
Calabrian Chili Peppers
Cuisine Style:

Jonathan Glass never thought about being a chef until an injury during high school sidetracked his dreams of playing collegiate hockey. Now, his goals are off the ice, and his kitchen game is fire.


About Jonathan Glass

Some chefs have egos more expansive than the kitchens they command. They have skills but lack humility. They have culinary finesse but don’t believe others can touch their talents and teach them something new.

Jonathan Glass, executive chef at Nonna’s Taste of Italy, is a quiet, unassuming chef who appreciates the innovative freedom food gives him as he cooks and never stops learning with pots on or off the stove.

He is at home with being a chef while also realizing he has vast culinary lands yet to be explored that await him.

On a recent Wednesday in Myrtle Beach, he sat quietly in a booth at Nonna’s Taste of Italy. The down-home décor, at 2132 Oakheart Rd., is reminiscent of a large family dining room with strategically placed plants and a loving salutation written in Italian.

"Tutti Sono Di Famiglia Da Nonna," which means "Everybody's Family Here at Nonna's”, is posted in big, bold, black-capped letters against a wooded wall.

“I don’t have one person in particular that inspired me to be a chef,’’ Glass said as a slow smile slid across his face. “However, if I had to pick someone, I would say my father because I always enjoyed helping him cook or grill out.”

Yet, even before then, his maternal grandmother initially gave him intimate observations of the world he now orbits.

Outside of Dayton, she would make meatloaf, tacos, and desserts. He was maybe 7 or 8.

“She made good meatloaf, and she makes great tacos, which are a big thing with us now,’’ Glass said. “My grandma was also the dessert person.”

Those encounters with his family helped create the budding, bold culinary purveyor who is sharpening his knack for making attention-grabbing food.

His journey differed from many because Glass explored epicurean ground officially when he sought a culinary degree. Working in restaurants and a job as a dishwasher was not in his repertoire before deciding he wanted to be a chef.

Yet, he did enjoy close-up observations of his parents and grandparents cooking and baking.

“I really didn’t get a lot of cooking experience at the house as much,’’ Glass said. “My dad and mom both cooked for me growing up. One of my earliest memories of cooking was with my dad. He is a grill guy, and that is where I got my passion for the grill. He used to love doing steaks, teriyaki chicken, portobello mushrooms.”

Each weekend, his dad would grill out on the back porch. In between flipping the meats and vegetables, his dad would toss the football with him. Glass would also help his dad grill. He was about 12 or 13,

“It was just a good time,’’ Glass said as his visage brightened with happiness. “We always had the family meal. My dad would come home at night from work, and my mom would cook when he was working. We would all sit down as a family and have dinner – that was a big thing. I had to clean my plate. I had to eat all my veggies, and I had to do the dishes.”

His twin sister, now a psychologist in Colorado, stayed out of the kitchen. However, they both shared a love for sports.

“My sister and I were very athletic growing up,’’ he said. “She played soccer, and I ran track. She did track and field as well.”

Years later, during her wedding reception, he experienced the wonder of what a chef could do when he had an astounding meal at a bed and breakfast called the 1790 Inn in Savannah, Ga.

“It was a simple filet mignon with potatoes and green beans,’’ Glass said. “I’ve never had a filet as tender. I could slide my fork through it literally. I didn’t need a knife. What made it memorable for me was that it was my sister’s wedding, and my family hadn’t been together like that in a long time. It was a big celebration – one of the best times in my life.”

A Dream Deferred, A Culinary Path Carved

Glass never considered careers that would lead him into a kitchen. His mind was on sports, but an injury changed his trajectory.

“I didn’t think about becoming a chef or anything in the culinary field until I was in high school,’’ Glass said. ‘’I was athletic. I played competitive travel hockey until I was 18, but I got hurt.”

He broke his left ankle during a game.

“It was devastating,’’ he said. “My junior year of high school, I was in a cast. I couldn’t play. I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t play much hockey after that. I wasn’t able to go to college and play like I thought I was going to. I wasn’t going to go pro, but I had those dreams of playing.”

Enter a representative from an art institute. Glass learned of a summer camp. He attended the culinary program for a week in Durham, N.C. This is when visions of chef hats popped into his head.

“I fell in love with culinary arts right there,’’ Glass said. “I liked the passion I got from my instructor, and the ability you had to be creative.”

Although he lacked culinary skills, he still developed a deep appreciation of the field and decided to become a chef.

“I’d always liked to cook, and I have always been the kind of person to do something that makes people feel good, whatever that might be. I want to have something I can do that resonates with people. If I can make something that you eat and make you feel good, make you happy, make you enjoy your time or day. We all have to eat no matter what, but nobody wants to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day.”

The Need to Grow, The Need to Know

Glass became one of nine graduates of the first culinary class of The Chef’s Academy in Mooresville, N.C.

It was a two-year program of the now-defunct Harrison College, which closed in 2018 after operating for nearly 120 years.

By all accounts, he makes a mean Chicken Sicilian. Only his people skills are stronger, said Trent Alexander, a friend who has known him for 10 years.

“To be honest, his personality makes him unique,’’ Alexander said. “He is upbeat and energetic. He is a friend who is always there, and his best dish is alfredo pasta.”

His first job after school was as a fry cook in Little River, working 80 hours a week at Snooky’s. He stayed there for about two years.

“You can get into any kitchen and grow, but you have to be willing to,’’ Glass said after checking on prep work being done at Nonna's. “I got to work at 9 o’clock in the morning, and then I would ride my bike home at 2 o’clock in the morning.”

“I learned very quickly that there is a hierarchy in the kitchen and sometimes people take advantage of that,’’ he said. “But I have never been big on hierarchies. We all need to work together. I don’t need somebody thinking they are better or worse than me because I need to be on my side right next to me.”

He went on to work for Red Lobster and Hard Rock Café before eventually landing a job at one of the premier Italian spots in Carolina Forest. It has a rustic décor with Tuscany flair and genuine Italian charm.

Nonna's Taste of Italy feels like family because it is. The mom-and-pop restaurant is an energetic and engaging spot owned by a husband-and-wife duo, Domenic and Lisa Fuda. Glass reigns here.

“He is unpredictable,’’ Domenic Fuda said of his kitchen character. “There are definite times when he is extremely creative and on point, and there are times when he is stumped.”

Here, Glass is learning authentic, beloved family recipes – not taken from a book – but from the heart of Giusippa Fuda, the “Nonna” of the eatery and Domenic Fuda’s mom. It is her soul in the essence of the menu, and this is the litmus paper from which Glass has had to hone veritable competence in classic and renowned dishes.

His adept hands know how to present eggplant rollatini, portobello parmigiana, chicken parmigiana, and other famed dishes.

Fuda said Glass has done a masterful job of duplicating authentic flavors.

‘‘It took him a while, but he definitely knows what he is doing,’’ Fuda said. “He is still here after a year and a half. So, that is a good thing. He was actually my first hire, and I went through a couple – and he is still here. So, I like him. I like his talent. I like his creativity, and most importantly I like his hard work. He doesn’t stop.”

By Johanna Wilson Jones

“One of my earliest memories of cooking was with my dad. He is a grill guy, and that is where I got my passion for the grill. He used to love doing steaks, teriyaki chicken, portobello mushrooms.”

Jonathan Glass
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