What is your current role?
Executive Chef at a two course country club with 1,200 members, 7 outlets & Chef’s Table. Our food and beverage revenue is roughly $5.2 million annually.
How would you describe a typical day in your current role?
Beginning at 8am, there is a check of all mise en place on the morning lines. Next, I’ll meet with morning lead cooks and discuss special and any events for the day. Around 9am there is a meeting with the clubhouse manager and catering department for upcoming events, outstanding menu proposals, and for us to identify any service issues from the previous night. Afterwards, I’ll check the remote outlets (4) prior to service, respond to member emails and finalize outstanding menu proposals, and meet with executive sous chef to discuss evening events. As I move to the mid-afternoon, there is a meeting with the second restaurant chef to discuss any service issues from the previous night, and we’ll identify the current day’s dinner specials. Around 2pm there is a food and beverage meeting to discuss the operation globally. From 3pm until roughly 5pm, I’ll prep, cook, and oversee production. Afterwards, I’ll position myself to help expedite dinner service and/or our Chef’s Table. Finally, around the 9-9:30pm timeframe, I will place orders as needed and clean up to wrap up the day. Typically, I’m heading home somewhere around 10-10:30pm.
What prompted you to become a Chef?
I came from a large family with two working parents, so if you didn’t cook, you didn’t survive. Cooking came natural to me. I began working as a dishwasher, then quickly worked my way up through the ranks.
Did you have a Chef Mentor? If so, who was your Chef Mentor and what did they teach you?
Roland Henin, CMC, was my Chef Mentor. Aside from ice carving and many other cooking techniques, the most important thing he taught me was to never sacrifice quality, and to work hard until the very end!
“He taught me to never sacrifice quality, and to work hard until the very end!”
What is the best part of being a Chef?
Giving people joy and an unforgettable dining experience. Food brings people together. Also, the camaraderie and fun with fellow chefs is great.
What is the hardest part of being a Chef?
The long hours, and not being with family/friends during holidays and weekends. Also, the stress and exhaustion that comes with the role.
“Stress and exhaustion comes with the role.”
In your opinion, how are culinary reality shows different from the real culinary industry?
You are not going to walk in to a restaurant and start writing menus – it’s not glamorous, and people are not always going to clap for you because you accomplished a task. You just have to put your head down and work you’re a** off. The real kitchen wants people with passion, drive, and heart – not drama and tears. Just get your job down and ask how else you can help.
“The real kitchen wants people with passion, drive, and heart – not drama and tears.”
If you traveled back to the beginning of your culinary career, what advice would you give yourself?
Run! Run away from this crazy business (smiling)! I would say to believe in myself more, trust my instincts, and act early to follow my dreams.
What advice would you give someone striving to become a Chef today?
Be humble and work every station in the kitchen, because you need to know how to do every job if you’re going to be everyone’s boss someday.
“Be humble and work every station in the kitchen.”
What should someone think about before beginning culinary school?
First off, you need to actually work a summer (or longer) in a restaurant as a dishwasher or prep person before going to culinary school to see if you really want to work in this industry. Then, if you choose culinary school, work very hard and learn all you can from your instructors.
Many future Chefs dream of opening a restaurant, what advice would you give them?
Be prepared to give up any social or family life for 2-3 years (if you are lucky enough to be open for that long). You will be working you’re a** off like most chefs. Then, you get to balance the books and pay all the bills at the end of the night – it’s tough.
What are some of the most important skills someone must possess when entering the industry today?
Be hungry to learn – always. Watch and learn from everyone in the kitchen. Finally, above all, have a positive can-do attitude!
“Be hungry to learn – always.”
What tools and/or resources (website, groups, culinary/kitchen tools, etc.) do you rely on the most and why?
One word – passion.
In your opinion, what is the most successful culinary path and how can this be achieved?
There are as many culinary paths as there are culinarians – everyone has their own way. I will say that, in my opinion, the one thing all successful chefs share is drive. The drive to create, to keep trying when others fail, to believe in themselves when others don’t.
Our audience has a strong desire to make a career in the culinary industry, as such, do you have any final thoughts for them?
Don’t be surprised if your culinary journey does not go as planned – I do not know one that has yet. Work in some well-known kitchens for your resume, but also work in some mom & pop places so you get a well-rounded experience. Travel (if you can) to many places and get inspired by many different cuisines. Get excited and stay excited about food. Your customers can tell the difference between an inspired chef and tired chef, just by the food they send out. Give life to your food, for food is life.
“Don’t be surprised if your culinary journey does not go as planned – I do not know one that has yet.“