Eric Karell

Chef Eric Karell

Chef Eric Karell

Areas of Expertise: Executive Chef, Organizing Large Events, Wine and Food Pairings, Teaching, and Communication Skills
Years in Industry: 39+
Credentials: Certified Executive Chef (CEC), Certified Culinary Administrator (CCA), Member of the American Academy of Chefs (AAC)
Professional Associations: American Culinary Federation
Personal Motto: “Believe and care only about things that are important.”
Culinary Philosophy: Take what God had already made perfect, and try not to screw it up.

What prompted you to become a Chef?

I became a chef because I had started working in a restaurant to earn money for college. I soon realized I had a passion for the business. I decided to go to culinary school and never stopped trying to reach my goal.

Did you have a Chef Mentor? If so, who was your Chef Mentor and what did they teach you?

I have had many Chef Mentors. The two that are most memorable are Thomas Catheral and Mark Erickson, both Certified Master Chefs. They taught me to never accept any less than the best from myself and my fellow workers.

“Never accept any less than the best from myself and my fellow workers.”

What is the best part of being a Chef?

The best part of being a Chef is working with so many interesting and varied people.

What is the hardest part of being a Chef?

The hardest part of being a Chef is seeing how many truly uncaring, lazy, and selfish people there are in our business.

In your opinion, how are culinary reality shows different from the real culinary industry?

The reality shows don’t capture the routine daily challenges we face in our business – equipment breaking down, late deliveries, people calling out, and how badly management and front of the house staff can ruin a good kitchen.

If you traveled back to the beginning of your culinary career, what advice would you give yourself?

Work in quality kitchens only and make a jump to R&D or Corporate Chef before I got too old.

What advice would you give someone striving to become a Chef today?

Work for the best Chef you can in the best environment – become outstanding in at least one phase of cooking. Also, learn pastry as well as savory food.

“Learn pastry as well as savory food.”

What should someone think about before beginning culinary school?

Think about whether it’s worth the price or not. And if you can afford it, go to a school where you can get a Bachelor’s degree as well.

“Go to a school where you can get a Bachelor’s degree as well.”

Many future Chefs dream of opening a restaurant, what advice would you give them?

As far as opening a restaurant, that has never been a consuming desire of mine. I don’t feel qualified to give advice on this point. However, if it was me, I would open the casual concept I could, with no wait staff, counter service only, disposables and cheap healthy food.

What are some of the most important skills someone must possess when entering the industry today?

Must be computer literate, must have excellent people skills, must be cool under fire, be technically sound in all culinary disciplines. Must be fast and good.

“Must be cool under fire.”

What tools and/or resources (website, groups, culinary/kitchen tools, etc.) do you rely on the most and why?

As far as large equipment a tilt skillet is essential. As far as modern equipment a sous vide system is important. The French knife will always be the single most use knife in the kitchen. The computer will always be your lifeline on a day to day basis. All these things give you the maximum amount of versatility in the kitchen.

In your opinion, what is the most successful culinary path and how can this be achieved?

There is no single, guaranteed culinary path. It all depends on the individual’s drive, financial situation, and their value system. Work ethic is essential no matter what you choose. Our industry is one of the few where someone with relatively little education can be successful with just hard work.

Our audience has a strong desire to make a career in the culinary industry, as such, do you have any final thoughts for them?

As for final thoughts on making the culinary arts your career, I would say, think very carefully about it. Are you willing to work nights, weekends, and holidays? Long, sweaty, dirty hours? Do you mind cuts, burns, bruises, sore feet and back aches? These are the realities of the business.