“Every year an asparagus shoot peaks out of the ground, almost like clockwork. Every year I'm excited and challenged to work with it in a new way. I'm excited to see what my peers are doing. I'm excited to see what those who have taught me are doing. And, at the end of the day, I'm excited for the next year, when I'm going to see that asparagus again to start the cycle and challenge of creativity. „
Daniel Humm, my mentor, taught me the value of hard work as applied towards a realized goal. You need to put your mind to something and you need to be focused. The what and the why matter just as much, if not more, than the how.
I was interested in food from a young age. When I was 14 years-old, David Bouley moved into my building. My mother made me knock on his door and ask to spend some time in his kitchen. It worked and got me an apprenticeship at Bouley for the summer in 1993. While it was an incredible time for me because everything was so new, looking back and reading about what was happening in the culinary scene of New York in the early 90s, I feel so fortunate to have started in such an important time in American (and New York) cuisine. Chef Bouley and other chefs were starting to take a cue from Asia, breaking out of the traditional French mold; there were so many exciting new flavors, techniques, and ideas. But what did I know? I was a kid. I was just in the right place at the right time.
I always want my team to feel ownership over the restaurant. When I was a young cook, the restaurants I worked at felt like my own. This allowed me to really immerse myself and take ownership. I want the entirety of my team to contribute. I don't lead by fear. I lead by example and by trying to create an environment where not being excellent is simply is not acceptable.
The one thing I couldn't live without is my spoon. I taste my food, all day long. From the building blocks of our recipes to the moment it goes out to the guest, I am always tasting. It's one of the biggest lessons I try to instill in my younger cooks.
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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