It was my greatest pleasure to have a wonderful visit this weekend from Executive Chef Jim Willard from Columbus Ohio. Chef Jim is presently the executive chef for McGraw Hill Publishers and cooks for their highest executives in the company. What makes his visit most special is the fact that Chef Jim is also a ventriloquist. His figure Ziggy, the wonderful creation of Ray Guyll kept telling Chef that he wanted to visit his cousins in Boston that reside in the Dan Willinger figure collection.
Chef Jim started ventriloquism at the ripe age of 5 and his first dummy was a Christmas present from his mom. It was, of course, a Juro toy Danny O’Day. He used this figure and Jimmy Nelson’s LP record of learning ventriloquism to hone his craft. Chef used this Juro toy figure for couple of years and his mom seeing that his passion was not waning decided he needed a better figure. She found an antique Willy Talk figure with a headstick and even though this too was a toy it was much more professional than the Juro figure. Chef Jim still owns that Willy Talk figure today. He was about 12 years old at this point, when his grandmother bought for him his first professionally built figure from Howard Olsen. Chef Jim called this fellow Stanley Stover.
Chef Jim got his first paying ventriloquist job at Disney World’s House of Magic promoting the Juro line of toy ventriloquist figures. Chef moved on to do the intermission act at Jackie Gleason’s Sea Ranch Dinner Theatre in Ft. Lauderdale Florida while staying with his grandmother. He also did children’s parties, convalescence homes and other corporate and local television shows.
Today Chef Jim is currently writing a cook book for children incorporating his ventriloquist figures as learning tools instilling nutrition, sanitation and safety for tasty items which children can prepare on their own. I am sure this book will do fine and will most likely be in every school in the United States in the not too distant future.
The picture shows Chef Jim as he and Ziggy prepared a wonderful meal for me and my family here in Boston. Chef Jim’s cooking talents and ventriloquile talents blew my family away and we are certainly happy he decided to come to see my collection and spend some time with us here.