What is your current role?
I own a pastry business in San Diego that specializes in wedding cakes, cupcakes, and dessert bars. Although this is our main focus, we do desserts for all special events.
How would you describe a typical day in your current role?
The morning is always filled with emails and client follow-ups, ordering supplies, making runs to the restaurant supply store, and sketching cakes. By afternoon, I can get to work on my projects. These shift around depending on the order deadline, which is never the same. Getting a normal night’s sleep is not an option with this career!
What prompted you to become a Chef?
I always had a “thing” for the kitchen – growing up I would make Belgian waffles every morning if I had it my way. It was just so amusing to me! After a year in a university in northern California, I knew economics wasn’t for me and I decided to give culinary arts a go. It was in school I really got in touch with my creative side and I knew it was where my career path started. Knowing it would be a long road traveled before success, I decided to do it.
“It was in school I really got in touch with my creative side and I knew it was where my career path started.”
Did you have a Chef Mentor? If so, who was your Chef Mentor and what did they teach you?
I learned a sizable percentage of my pastry knowledge during my time working under Executive Pastry Chef Debbie Coenen. Not only did I learn new ways to operate a pastry kitchen from her, I also gained experience on the management side of a kitchen. Ordering, planning, scheduling, inventory, and customer service. I owe a lot of how I keep things flowing today to her teachings.
What is the best part of being a Chef?
Every single day is a new creative experience!
What is the hardest part of being a Chef?
The hardest part in my field would have to be keeping up with marketing my brand and networking connections because it takes a significant amount of time. You can never have enough connections to keep business flowing.
“You can never have enough connections to keep business flowing.”
In your opinion, how are culinary reality shows different from the real culinary industry?
Culinary reality shows tend to only show you the actual culinary part. The job does not start or end within the kitchen walls! In the real culinary industry, there are so many challenges just to grow as a chef. You don’t just make a fancy dish or dessert and then that’s it; you get dirty, you have to practice, you have to be focused on your distant goals. Also, there is no big fancy check at the end of the episode!
If you traveled back to the beginning of your culinary career, what advice would you give yourself?
If I was 19 again and just starting my culinary career, I would tell myself to be more patient. Although I excelled in certain areas from the beginning, other areas of the culinary arts kitchen were a challenge for me, and sometimes instead of fixing mistakes right then, I would give up and retry months later. I feel like that may have slowed me down at times.
“I would tell myself to be more patient.”
What advice would you give someone striving to become a Chef today?
Hard work and dedication is so key in this career choice – it takes a strong mind to make it in this world, and it is no different for culinary arts. If you aren’t enjoying yourself, rethink! You should dig what you do every day!
“Hard work and dedication is so key in this career choice – it takes a strong mind to make it in this world, and it is no different for culinary arts.”
What should someone think about before beginning culinary school?
Before you begin culinary school, think about where you want to take yourself. Do you see yourself working in a restaurant? With a catering company? In a bakery? You will have challenges and you will make mistakes. You will excel in areas you didn’t think you would. You will make connections, and it is important to hold on to those.
Many future Chefs dream of opening a restaurant, what advice would you give them?
Do not attempt to open a restaurant or business the week you graduate culinary school. Working under Executive Chefs and gaining on the job experience for years will gain you a second round of knowledge and skills. There is nothing wrong with writing a business plan and going over it every six months, but you will change your mind so many times, you must take the proper time to grow into the chef and business person you need to be to run a successful business.
“Do not attempt to open a restaurant or business the week you graduate culinary school.”
What are some of the most important skills someone must possess when entering the industry today?
Focus and attitude are very important.
What tools and/or resources (website, groups, culinary/kitchen tools, etc.) do you rely on the most and why?
I find LinkedIn, Facebook groups, and in-person networking events to be the best resources for me. My dad taught me that anyone doing the same thing as you is not a competitor, but an ally. You can learn from others just as they can learn from you, and it is growth for all. Other people are the greatest tools you can have! As for kitchen tools, I can never have enough cutting boards and knives!
In your opinion, what is the most successful culinary path and how can this be achieved?
The most successful culinary path in my opinion would be schooling, at least 6 years on the job experience, and then once you have all that under you, you can determine where you want to go from there. I feel that you have to put in your time to get anywhere in this industry, and not everyone is willing to do that.
Our audience has a strong desire to make a career in the culinary industry, as such, do you have any final thoughts for them?
Follow your dreams! Hard work pays off. Apply for jobs that advance you in the career path you WANT. Be open to learning new techniques your entire life! Knowledge really is power. Good luck!
“Knowledge really is power.”