Jonathan Black

Jonathan Black

Chef Owner at Chez Noir

We get the most phenomenal products at the market here in San Francisco – “materia prima”, which inspires me to come in and change everyday. But our team is what really inspires me. They’re all young, hungry, and excited. They come in and push hard everyday. Being surrounded by like-minded individuals, all here to create good products and having a kitchen you’re really happy to work in, really keeps me motivated.

I have had many different mentors: Renny Parziale of the American Culinary Federation was my introduction to the industry and showed me the ropes; Paul Liebrandt opened my mind to different flavors and modern technique; David Breedan and Thomas Keller showed me what true flavor is in food, and the importance of finesse; Brad McDonald taught me the importance of being not only a talented chef, but also a talented businessman; and working alongside Michael Tusk has taught me that part of building a great team is giving them the tools they need to succeed.
I continually remind my team to focus on how to make it better the next time - don't be stagnant.
I hope to continue to inspire my team by creating a collaborative environment. My team is able to come in and put their own ideas on the plate. The menu is shared among all of us and we’re able to create some really beautiful food together. I want cooks to come in and feel they can explore their own ideas.
If you want to work or stage somewhere, you need to be persistent – write a nice letter or an email and always follow-up. We’re all busy. Persistence is key. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
I’ve learned and stress the importance of dedication - feeling a sense of urgency in addition to constant hard work and looking the part. Come to work alert, put together, and ready to work.
I learned the hard way the importance of the word "YES". Don't make excuses and tell stories. Say, "yes, Chef", learn, move on, and improve.
I stay motivated by remembering that I have to keep others motivated. It all trickles down - your positivity and inspiration. There is a responsibility in the role of chef - it's not all about you.
To keep the team inspired and involved, we go to the farmer’s market daily and take farm trips to derive inspiration from both the products and artisan producers. A connection to the products and the people keeps the team involved and inspires creativity.
I try to instill in people to never settle, don't let yourself fall into the rhythm of putting it off until the next day. Push yourself to always do your best and improve upon what you learned the day before. Thomas Keller stated, "When you acknowledge, as you must, that there is no such thing as perfect food, only the idea of it, then the real purpose of striving toward perfection becomes clear - to make people happy, this is what cooking is all about.”
I continue to educate my myself by going out to eat as often as possible, traveling when I can, and reading cookbooks. Some favorite books include: “The French Laundry Cookbook” (for technique), “Relae” – Christian Puglisi, “Cooking By Hand”- Paul Bertoli, “In De Wulf”- Kobe Desramaults, “Grande Livre de Cuisine/Encyclopedia”- Alain Ducasse, and last but not least, the “Joy of Cooking.”

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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