You should never underestimate the value of experience. It is likely that people who have been around longer know a thing or two that you may not. In that light, it is always important to learn as much as we can from those people, and take whatever advice they are willing to give. With that said, here are a few words of wisdom from some great chefs around the country that just might be useful to you one day.
Kristen Kish, winner of Top Chef’s 10th season: “Honestly, one thing I wished I learned earlier on was humility and how to humble yourself, and how to start from the bottom, because that’s where you learn the most. You don’t have to be in a million places at once, you’re in charge of one thing and you have to learn and listen and be more aware of what’s happening around you. But at the end of the day, it’s a hard industry. It’s hard. There’s sacrifices that are made and work will come before personal life. You’ll give up friends and family and holidays and events and you’re gonna lose people out of your life. But that being said, you get to surround yourself with people who share the same passion. You have to choose wisely though, because there’s a lot of restaurants that breed bad habits. Whether it’s how the restaurant runs or late-night partying, it’s the restaurant industry. And it’s hard not to give into those temptations, because it’s kinda fun. But once you find that professional kitchen that truly knows how to run and breed true talent, you stick with that. It’s one of the hardest industries I’ve ever been a part of, but also the most rewarding once you make that breakthrough. You go through culinary school and have that idea of working in kitchens, and it’s a harsh reality once you go into your first real kitchen. A lot of people give it up, but another great thing about the industry is you get to jump around from city to city, restaurant to restaurant. Give it two years and move on. For a commitment-phobe like myself, it works out well.”
Paula Deen, Paula’s Best Dishes: “Remember, y’all, it’s all about the prep. Take away the stress by doing the prep the night or day before. You’ll look like a star.”
Tony Mantuano, Spiaggia in Chicago, IL: “It’s important to look at tradition and culture for inspiration. Look to the past to move forward. Go and spend time in the region of the cuisine you’re interested in. Learn the techniques and how local chefs are modernizing their own culinary traditions. See how people actually live. That experience will certainly come through in your food and help create a unique point of view.”
Marc Vetri, Sara’s Weeknight Meals: “Work ethic and attitude is everything. It’s the only thing that matters. I would take a less knowledgeable cook with a great attitude and work ethic over a talented prodigy with pissy attitude any day of the week. It will always make for a better team at the restaurant. I can’t tell you how many amazing cooks have been through my kitchens and simply have not made the cut because of their attitude. And guess what? Three, four, five years later those cooks are still line cooks. They still complain about how much everybody else sucks around them. If you’re a line cook at 25 and still one at 35, it’s time to look in the mirror. I can guarantee that YOU are the problem not anyone else.”
Gaston Acurio, La Mar: “The most important ingredient in this food world for young chefs is to be patient. When I was 20-years-old I had to go to a library, now if I want a recipe I can have it anywhere – maybe one million recipes. All this information that you’re receiving makes you think that you’re prepared but you’re not, the experience of life is very important to cook better. You don’t have to worry, you don’t have to rush – wait for your moment and listen to your soul to know when is your moment to go further. In the meanwhile learn, learn and learn.”
And finally, a bit of advice from us at ChefUniforms.com: “Always keep your chef coat clean and stain-free (as much as you can – you are in a kitchen, after all!). For information on how to take care of your chef coats, see our blog “Keeping Your Chef Coat Clean During the Holidays”.
As with any advice you are given, BE THE BEST YOU CAN BE!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten? Leave it below for our Chefs!