Kelly Jeun

Kelly Jeun

Former Executive Chef for Frasca Food and Wine

The best lesson that I have learned during my career is to put your head down, work hard in the best place you can, and learn as much as possible. Get involved and don’t be shy to ask questions, people will notice your determination.

The best piece of advice that I have received was from Lidia Bastianich. She told me that every experience, good or bad gives you something. You learn from every encounter and occurrence that happens in your career. You may ask why at the time, but the universe reveals itself to why you went through those times later on.
Working at Eleven Madison Park was one of the toughest, but most rewarding places I’ve ever worked. Chef Daniel Humm pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of. Once you see how far you can go, you realize you can do anything. It makes you feel invincible to any challenges that come your way. I also saw what it took to be the best at something, starting at number 50 on the San Pellegrino list and aiming for number one and actually obtaining it. And most important, the team you create is everything - the kitchen and dining room need to work effortlessly together to get to the top.
I knew this profession was right for me when I was working as a paralegal after college and realized I did not want to work an office job looking at paperwork for the rest of my life. I asked myself “if money didn’t matter, what would you do?” I immediately said cooking, as I grew up watching PBS with Lidia Bastianich, Jacques Pepin, Jean Louis Palladin, and Julia Child. I told myself that I have one life to live, my happiness is most important, there’s no plan B. I believe if you’re happy, you’re willing to work hard and therefore success follows.
I believe a healthy work/life balance is more about having harmony with one another, so if you're fulfilled at work, your home life is joyous and vice-versa. Balancing one another means one thing may outweigh another when they would really complement each other.
When hiring I look for the person first and foremost - our values need to be aligned because then we can execute our vision through thick and thin, then ability, skill and having a great attitude. It must be someone who can mesh well with the team since we spend so much time together.
One of the most important skills to possess in this industry is finding the beauty in repetition. Daniel Humm showed me how to find ways to improve the same things we do every day and to find joy in that. This industry is also about perseverance and enduring the long haul because it's about getting better each day.
I keep my team inspired and motivated by telling them about my personal experiences as a cook, finding empathy in their struggles that I may have gone through to assure them great things happen when you work hard, that success follows. We have a daily kitchen pre-service to go over what we need to improve. Also, utilizing ingredients they may not know and showing how to use them - seeing their joy of discovery, is amazing.
Seeing the joy when guests enjoy something we've prepared keeps me motivated. The ability to change a cook or dishwasher’s life because you were able to provide an opportunity to grow, as well as the camaraderie in kitchens, also inspire me.
I keep myself educated by staying attuned to the culinary world. I love to travel, eat at different restaurants, and read cookbooks to see how different chefs' minds work.
I couldn't do this job without my clipboard where I keep my daily to-do list.

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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