Working in restaurants (especially fine dining) can be uniquely challenging and demanding.
Set goals. Setting goals at the beginning of my career (I make a point to set yearly goals) has helped keep me focused and motivated to continue moving forward at all times. It’s great to look back at the end of the year to reflect on how far you’ve come, and how much more you’d like to push yourself to improve.
I once read that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and this resonated with me. Once you’ve set your goal(s), finding the right kitchens, work environments, and mentors are just as crucial in the process of advancing your career. We spend countless hours at work in the restaurant industry. It is a privilege to be able to choose where you work, and I believe it’s worth noting that those privileged enough to make this choice should choose their leadership and work surroundings wisely.
I look for people who exhibit an eagerness to learn, work hard, work well with others, are unafraid to clean, and most especially cooks who approach challenges with humility. I think you can teach a cook who carries these qualities everything else.
There is always something new to learn: regional cuisines, technique, food history, product, science, regions, etc. Food is an infinite topic. It’s impossible to know everything. If you don’t know something, ask. If you’re in an environment where it’s wrong to ask, question if that environment is right for you.
I received a piece of advice from a chef I admire a lot in Japan. He shared with me that resumes don’t matter when he’s hiring, and that he hires strictly from meeting people and determining if they have the heart for the job. That may sound crazy, but it can’t be too crazy as he maintains three restaurants (two of which have three Michelin stars) and retains a majority of his team year after year.
My work experiences in Japan combined with my time in Northern California and Spain have really helped to shape the way that I approach product and the importance of expressing seasonality in food.
Knowing yourself, how you learn, what type of food you’d like to focus on (fine dining, casual, fast casual, etc.), how you get motivated and how you handle pressure can really help you find the path that’s right for you.
I think beyond actual cooking skills and learning to follow directions and methods, I really appreciate instinctual cooking and multi-tasking. A lot of what we do daily requires multiple things to be happening at once constantly, and multi-tasking while understanding that product changes on a daily basis are very important in the way I like to approach food.
I work hard at communicating and teaching as much as possible in my role as well as encouraging the sous chefs to do the same. I think showing up to teach people about fundamental skills like fish or meat fabrication, sauce work, vegetable work, etc. with the gradual opportunity to further refine those skills in time as we improve helps me stay close to their development and to make sure we uphold standards we set.
I’m inspired by the many people I respect in this industry who are excited to do more to change things for the better. Beyond cooking, we are a broken industry and I genuinely look forward to being a part of a program like Canlis who wants to be a part of the positive changes we can bring.
I find inspiration from seasons and product. For example, Washington state has its own state soil (Tokul soil) and its rich soil and unique micro-climates allow for it to be an one of the most productive food regions globally. I’m most excited to meet with the farmers in this region to learn more.
I love to read and do general research on plants and their historical uses. I will continue to lean on the sous chefs and our R&D chef to pursue various topics relevant to this region (local producers, seasons, climates, etc.) so we can share the information amongst the team.
I don’t know that there is one particular thing that I can’t live without in order to do my job, but I definitely can’t stand to not have effective communication or a way to organize information.
There are many informative books I enjoy, but “On Food and Cooking” by Harold McGee (great food science resource) along with the informative series by Murata San that dives into cutting various vegetable and fish cutting techniques. These are just a few that I find myself coming back to.
Maintaining a work/life balance is something I work harder on now more than ever. Personally, I find it difficult to believe I can truly show up as my best self for others at work if I don’t set aside time for myself outside of work. It’s completely healthy to have hobbies, a workout routine, and time for loved ones outside of our professional roles. In some ways, it makes us stronger and more empathetic leaders to continue to make room for life experiences and relationships alongside our work dynamics.