“My style of cheffing is very open – when I have a new dish, I have everyone on my team taste it and provide feedback. By doing so, it makes them feel that their opinion matters and it truly does. What is better than one mind? Five. Women tend to take opinions and think them through, rather than just saying, this is the recipe to follow.„
Fabio Trabocchi, one of my favorite people ever and a phenomenal chef I worked for, used to say: “Mediocrity gets in the way of greatness” – it is so true. He wanted to inspire us to do our best all the time. To this day, I still think about it a lot and have it written on a piece of paper in my knife bag.
The biggest thing that inspires me is the product. At BKLYN Larder, I’m able to source the most amazing produce, the majority of which comes from local farms. This really drives my decisions on what I’m going to make.
I believe that everybody in the chef community should work on a farm to appreciate our product more and understand how hard it is to grow it so that nothing is wasted. I worked at Love Apple Farms, a biodynamic farm in central California that supplies Maresa, early in my career. The owner, Cynthia Sandberg, is an extremely tenacious person who loves chefs and let me come work with her. It was very labor-intensive and it impacted my career so much.
If you’re a chef, you should be able to do everything a chef’s job requires, whether you’re a male or a female chef. However, I have noticed that I tend to gravitate towards women when it comes to hiring. Women are innately known for multi-tasking –
sorry guys, but it's true – and that’s more in line with how I run my kitchen. I started my career working in the Jean-Georges [Vongeritchen] community, everything that we did was very organized and I've carried it throughout my career.
When I was a freshman in high school, my mom sat me down and asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. We went over the things I was good at: I was strong, good at working with my hands, artistic. Sarah Moulton was on TV and I remember distinctly thinking, “Maybe I could be a chef?”. Later, my mom got me a job as an assistant in a kitchen and this is when I knew that it was the perfect avenue for me: it’s physical and backbreaking work but also creative. Years later, I was at a Lucky Peach party and saw Sarah Moulton. I walked up to her and told her that I was inspired to be a chef when I saw her on TV. It was a fun and rewarding moment!
The most important attribute to possess is heart. Everything else can be taught. I would much rather hire someone who has basic skills and wants to learn than someone who has worked in many kitchens but has attitude. This is a hard industry, it’s physically and mentally challenging. If your heart isn’t in it, you won’t be able to make it.
I read a lot of cookbooks and most of my friends are in the industry so we talk about food a lot. I also love eating out to stay inspired and see what everybody else is doing. Recently, I had the most delicious dish at Olmsted: beer-battered delicata squash with everything bagel spice. I told the chef Greg Baxtrom how amazing it was and my brain just started thinking “everything bagel spice”. Something always comes from somewhere.
If my guys aren’t smiling and tell me good night when they leave, it makes me feel like I didn’t do a good job. I want everyone to come in and get their work done but also have fun. Quality of life in your workplace is really important. And coffee!
Disclaimer: Individuals featured in the Inspirational Career Timelines section have been nominated by peers, colleagues and/or other members of the hospitality industry. It is to the best of our knowledge that each individual has demonstrated leadership and acted as a positive role model for others.
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