Like most graduates in today’s society, I am not working in my studied field. While I don’t regret my time at school, I just regret how much I paid for my experience. I turned down a nearly free education from my in-state college to go to a private university in southern California. Don’t get me wrong, I had an amazing time, but now I get to enjoy having $100,000+ worth of debt held over my head for the next ten or so years. It does not help that I entered a field notorious for low wages: the culinary industry.
I have always had a passion for food and the restaurant industry; I still even remember drawing pictures of what my restaurant would look like. At an early age, I was exposed to many amazing restaurants, all thanks to my mother and sister. Both of them have been in the industry for more than 30 years, and have both accomplished a lot. My sister is currently a General Manager of the second restaurant that she has opened in the past 6 years. Throughout this small food and beverage world, I’ve pretty much been known as my mother’s son or sister’s younger brother. My dream is to open multiple restaurants in the near future. It is my turn to make my mark on this industry and the city that we call home.
The path that I have embarked on to restaurant stardom is a little on the unconventional side. Instead of going to culinary school and getting a solid cooking foundation, I got a degree in business. I foresee it helping me further down the line, but as of right now, it’s not doing a whole lot for me. Without any formal training, I accepted my first cooking job six months after graduating from college. I became a prep cook in November 2013 at a high end steakhouse. I was able to snag an interview with the Executive Chef because my sister knew someone that knew him. At my interview, I had to prove that I deserved to stay there. They put me through a grueling 10-hour stage (a culinary “audition”). I started my day with the prep team in the morning, getting all of the ingredients ready for that night’s service. Chef had a little fun with me by having me open and clean lobsters; he knew I wasn’t a big fan of seafood (then). After my morning with the prep shift, I got an opportunity to see the night service in full swing. This restaurant was well known for giving each table a trio of duck fat fried fries as an amuse bouche (a small complimentary appetizer) in place of bread, rather than being ordered as just as side dish.. The chefs put me on the fries station to see how I could handle getting slammed almost the entire night. Although I was getting my butt kicked, I loved every minute of it. The energy of a busy service is one like no other, its quite addictive.
After I was hired, I was able to learn and adapt quickly, giving me the opportunity to move up the line. After spending six months as a prep cook in the morning, I moved up to the hotline at night making the fries. From there, I trained my way around the kitchen in nearly every station besides the coveted meat grill and the Lead Cook on sides. From shucking the oysters in Garde manger or plating desserts in pastry, I was given the opportunity to do it all. In my year and a half at the steakhouse I moved around Hot Appetizers, both salad and seafood portions of Garde Manger, fries, sauté, fish grill, and pastry. I became a roundsman, which in the culinary world means I am able to fill in at any station that needs help. On some slow nights, I even had the opportunity to expedite the food. In addition to the incredible team I had the pleasure of working with, one of my favorite aspects of the job was getting to getting out of the restaurant to participate in special events. Venturing to other hotel properties with other restaurants and preparing our food for the attendees is such a experience. It was probably one of the few times that customer service can be enjoyable and fun. I truly enjoyed every moment I worked there, and I miss it all the time.
In July of 2015 I decided to make a move to a completely different sector in the culinary world: the mass production of Banquets. I joined the team as Cook 3, or the equivalent of a master cook. This move escalated my on-the-job culinary education, and provided leadership opportunities in the kitchen. I had thought serving 500 people at the steakhouse was intense… until I helped serve 16,000 people in one night for a convention.
in June of 2017 I took over as the Saucier for the banquets department. I am solely in charge of producing all of the sauces, dressing, and marinades for all of our banquet events. This position has given me the opportunity to further my skills and education to get me that much closer to becoming a chef. Recipe development, ordering and planning each day are the skills that i will take away from this position.
My journey through this industry has not been typical, and I hope to share this culinary adventure to restaurant stardom. Along the way, I will share interesting things that I pick up, recipes that I learn, or places I got to enjoy on my travels. As the Chairman from Iron Chef America would say, “with an open heart and empty stomach”, lets begin.