Maybe even intimidating.
But underneath the hard-bitten shell, there was a loving, compassionate man who changed the lives of countless students during a culinary career that spanned more than five decades.
That was how former students and instructors remembered Chef Daniel Brophy, 63, who was shot to death last week inside a cooking college on Southwest Madison Street in downtown Portland.
"For all the gruff and all the posturing and all the 'no smiling,' he had a heart of gold and everybody here knows that," memorialized Chef Brian Wilke, describing a 20-year friendship with "one of the greatest men I've ever met" during a candlelight vigil on Monday.
Homicide detectives continue to investigate the shooting, which was reported around 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 2, at the Oregon Culinary Institute, where Brophy had worked since the school was founded in 2006.
Despite the tragic circumstances, the memories shared on Monday evening had hundreds of attendees laughing over Brophy's quirks and idiosyncrasies.
He forbid whistling in the kitchen — told clumsy knife-wielders their severed fingers would become property of his "tip" jar — and made anyone who forgot their hat wear something from his collection of sombreros, spiked helmets and hardhats.
Brophy was a second term instructor, educating cooks who had already attended OCI for about nine or ten weeks. Each year, it was tradition for one of his students to don a cow costume, while everyone else slapped on velcro labels representing the different cuts of meat.
The costume was hand-sewn by the chef's wife, Nancy Brophy.
"He loved teaching, he loved mushrooms and he loved family," she remembered. "Not only was life a science experiment, but sometimes it was an adventure."
The candlelight vigil briefly became a high-octane affair, after Chef Wilke lit up Brophy's massive propane torch. Then the crowd surged forward to lay down flowers, candles and other tributes in the school's parking lot.
"He was a tough teacher, but he was tough for a reason," said Wilke, who knew Brophy from their days together at the Western Culinary Institute. "Chef Brophy would have hated this (event) to become a big, sad sack."
Many recalled the Beaverton resident's trademark "Brophyisms," sardonic sayings that the avid gardener and dabbling beekeeper repeated in his classroom, including:
• "Every mushroom is edible — once."
• "You can easily cure a sick chicken with a shovel."
• "Any job will go faster if you don't do it so slow."
• "Everytime you burn a tray of bacon, an angel gets herpes."
Jason Wong was one of many to bring a bouquet to the ceremony. He found a job at the Multnomah Athletic Club after he graduated from the Oregon Culinary Institute in December of last year.
"As a graduate of OCI, it hit me hard," Wong said. "OCI is like a family to me."
Police have released little information since Brophy's body was discovered by students and teachers arriving for work. Members of the crowd said Brophy was last seen prepping for the weekend in a kitchen area with the garage door rolled up, and that somebody must have followed him inside.