Jonathan Benno

Jonathan Benno

Work for great people and take your time. Developing a craft takes time. Most importantly, always do your best.

As a chef, I challenge myself to continue to learn, be a mentor to my staff, and be responsible to my partners. Providing a future for my family is also significant, my life changed ten years ago after I got married. My wife and my two children are the most important people in my life.
I knew I wanted to pursue cooking when I was in high school. After graduation, I moved to Hawaii and worked there as a cook for a few years. There I realized that I needed to properly go to school to build a foundation and focus on my career.
When I was in culinary school, I worked at the Mayflower Inn in Connecticut, not far from where I grew up. John Farnsworth was the first chef that I worked for that I would call a “chef’s chef”. He is an incredible teacher; he encouraged me to get out in the world, travel, and learn as much as possible.
Being a chef is a lifelong process. You have to keep studying, learning, looking for a new or better way to do things. Constantly push yourself to learn.
Attitude trumps experience: when hiring, what I look for the most is attitude, humility, and the desire to learn. Aspiring professionals also need to understand and accept that there is a lot of hard work that goes into working in this industry. It will require patience, discipline, and the willingness to make sacrifices.
Traveling and discovering other cultures is unquestionably one of the greatest sources of inspiration. I was fortunate enough to visit Japan a couple of years ago. It was a very significant trip that I still think about sometimes. The culture of respect and pride that the Japanese people have for their work, towards one another, for the ingredients, it was all deeply inspiring. As a New Yorker, I also feel lucky to be surrounded by an incredible food culture.
Leading by example is key. You have to come up with creative ways to educate and challenge your team. For example, putting up a great family meal or coming up with ideas for new dishes and trying them out together. After doing this for 30 years, I know that we can learn something from every member of the team and that we need to let the staff have a voice. There’s always going to be someone who looks at something differently and shows you how to do something better.

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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