I started cooking when I was 17 years old, not knowing what I was really doing. I knew that I needed the money and somehow I got a job as a dishwasher at the age of 16. Then I was asked to help on the line a year later. I worked my way up through that kitchen not realizing how happy I was while learning. At the age of 22, I knew that I wanted to become a chef, I didn't see myself doing anything else but cooking.
I have been so lucky to cross paths with so many people that are hard workers. I have had dishwashers who become cooks and they rock. I’ve had line cooks who become sous chefs and sous chefs who are now running their own places or now have jobs as Executive Chefs at restaurants. Life has given me so much and I make sure I leave a mark on every single person who works with me.
Morimoto PA and LMNO Philadelphia are the two jobs that have impacted my career the most and in very different ways. Morimoto, was when I was a very young cook with big ambitions and very low skills. It definitely had a huge impact in regards to the cultural change in my life; I spoke no English at that time and there were very few Spanish speakers in that kitchen, making my years in that kitchen very special. Today I remember those days, knowing that when you want it, the only obstacle is you. LMNO project happened during COVID-19 when it was almost impossible for the restaurant industry to staff properly. Being able to not just staff the kitchen, but also connect with staff members and have them stay part of the team until now, definitely was a huge impact in my career.
Ideal candidates have the following transferable skills: leadership, problem-solving and communication.
As anyone knows, finding the right balance between life and work is very hard. It is very, very hard but properly coaching your team will help you to enjoy your free time and worry very little about work when you're in your free time.
The Opening of LMNO in Philadelphia in the middle of a pandemic is a highlight of my career. I never went to culinary school and to be able to accomplish what was done made me feel lucky and blessed to have had tons of amazing and super talented chefs around me to learn from.
Hard work always pays off. Every time I started a new job, I would always try to find the need in that team and work hard to help the team to fill that space – always trying to stay ahead of problems and always delivering solutions.
Advice that has stuck with me throughout my career is to always follow your passion, remain humble and be open to learning more.
Listening, learning, practicing, mastering and teaching have all been deliberate decisions I made to help get to the leadership position I am in today. Now, when I touch people with these steps then watch it go on and on.
Optimizing opportunities for collaborations and trying to always create opportunities to include staff members helps create a better environment for everyone on the team.
When hiring, I look for those who have the best attitude possible and are dependable. You can always teach someone with a good attitude, but it is almost impossible to teach a skilled person with a bad attitude. I look for someone open to learning – skills are important, but to me they are a plus.
I feel the most important skills to have are punctuality, responsibility and honesty.
I find inspiration when traveling, in books and meeting new people.
I continue to educate myself with lots of reading. I also ask myself simple questions which always lead to the most crazy and confusing questions/ answers.
In order to do my job, I can’t live without coffee and dining out.
Essential books for a culinary career are “The Professional Chef,” “The Flavor Bible” and of course, “Kitchen Confidential” by Anthony Bourdain.
I have been lucky enough to touch others with what I do and inspire others to do the same. Those years when chefs used to yell and scream at people are gone. Today’s kitchens need to be led by example – that touches people and inspires them way more.
For self-care, I run on a regular basis.
I enjoy the following podcasts: “Chef's PSA,” “40y20” by Epazote Magazine, and “Let's Talk About Chef.”
To avoid burnout, building strategic schedules that allow you to maintain a balance between personal life and work, running, exercising and spending quality time with family are all a must.