No wonder Lindberg, now the executive chef of Bonanno Brothers Pizzeria, didn't have cooking aspirations while he was growing up in a small town just south of Seattle. "My childhood was really all about eating healthy and making sandwiches. I consider whatever I can put between two layers of bread cooking," he cracks.
But a trip to San Francisco during his sophomore year of college changed Lindberg's perceptions of cooking -- and his career path. "I went to San Francisco with a friend whose brother was a big-time chef, and we were escorted through the kitchen, and I was completely blown away," recalls Lindberg. "There were thirty people in the kitchen, all in chef's jackets, sauté pans were flaming everywhere, guys were peeling 200 pounds of potatoes, the chef's table was all dressed -- it was a crazy atmosphere that I loved." Two weeks later, just before his finals, he abandoned his textbooks. "I knew that school wasn't for me, that I was there for all the wrong reasons -- to party and play football. I was just done," he says.
But his education was far from complete. He simply switched classrooms, moving from a traditional landscape to a culinary climate. "That experience in San Francisco -- that was going to be my career," says Lindberg. "I wanted to seize the moment -- the time was now -- so I went to full-service culinary school and loved every minute of it."
And it loved him back. On Lindberg's first day, he was relegated to the breakfast short-order-cook station alongside four girls who didn't know how to break an egg, much less fry or flip it. "Everything went downhill fast, but I later learned that I'd saved the morning," he recalls -- because the chef then asked whether he had "a fast car to the east side of Washington."
"I had no clue what the guy was talking about, but he gave me a number, I called it, and an hour later I was working in one of the best restaurants in Washington state at the time," says Lindberg. "The chef offered me food and a beer and then asked me if I wanted to cook that night, and I did -- for almost three years."