I am a teacher. I talk to my team daily about why we are doing something and how to make it better. I have found that this is the best management style for me because teaching and coaching is key to my team's development and growth. I'm really not much of a yeller in the kitchen, I prefer to help people by coaching them over and over again. Most people respond best to it when you treat them as an equal. It’s not only top down teaching in our kitchen; I love it when a line cook comes in to show something new to the team as well.
We hire people with no experience, straight out of school, and those that have worked in the industry for years. We are always looking for that 51%in the candidate, and someone who wants to work in a team atmosphere and is naturally are smart and thoughtful. For me, it’s not much about the skills that they come in with, but they need to have an open mind. I can teach almost anyone the skills to work in the restaurant but they have to willing to learn.
I cannot do my job without the whole team I work with, especially our sous chefs. Also flexibility is key to our success; Danny Meyer and USHG give me the freedom to be creative and to run a business, which is a really big part of what I do every day.
I find inspiration from ingredients. I try to start with a particular ingredient and then create the dish around it. We are very lucky to cook with very seasonal ingredients specific to the Northeast.
Knife skills are crucial, but you must have an understanding of the products we are working with. You can know all the classic techniques, and how to butcher, but if you don’t understand the ingredient you’re working with, you're not really achieving the end goal.
I had no cooking background at all and I never have any interest in the restaurant industry when I was younger. When I moved to NYC after college, back in 2002, I had the opportunity to dine out and try different types of cuisines. A couple of year later, I was trying figure out what I wanted to do with my career and knew I wanted to be more creative when I stumbled into cooking. I was hoping that when I went to culinary school, that it would be a profession but I still wasn't convinced. It wasn’t until I first worked for Anita Lo as Garde Manger that I really enjoyed it! It was truly after 6 months of working at Gramercy Tavern that I knew I had found my career path and have been hooked ever since!
Anito Lo was my first mentor. She taught me everything from the basics to the finesse of cooking.
Mike Anthony taught me how to love food and care for products in a way that wasn't intuitive for me before then. He also taught how to manage a team and how to run a restaurant.