In order to truly lead a team, you have to be a good person in every aspect of life. People first believe in you and then in what you do. I feel you can be a great chef, but if you are not an honest person, no one will follow you. They may use you to get ahead, but they won't be inspired by you.
I spent a lot of my early career looking at finished dishes and trying to break them down to the techniques that built them. I don't necessarily look at what things are as a whole, but rather how they are put together. Once I have broken a dish down to its elements, it helps me rebuild it into something new that is mine.
In a team, there are moments when you are in the spotlight and other moments when you are on the sidelines. I want each team member to have their moment. I encourage competition and want them to create dishes for a spot on the menu.
The kitchen is a place for the outcasts; you can express yourself freely through art and be accepted. You are judged for your speed and for the quantity of physical work you can do. I am fast and willing to work, so this industry fits me. It is a bunch people working really hard and then celebrating after. I'm never going to ask the chef next to me about what college they went to or the honors they received. I am going to see their creativity and how hard they are willing to work.
At Emmer & Rye, we focus on seasonal and local, which has given me the opportunity to mess around with a lot of ingredients. I have explored heritage fresh milled flours, made cream cheese for my cheesecake, and used malabar spinach berries for coloring. You can always substitute and balance, but sugar is hard. You can try to sub it out, but the guest always knows that the dish doesn't have sugar.
When hiring, I first look for a commitment to succeed. It is evident in the way you present yourself, your personality, and how you communicate. I also want to know your career aspirations and end goals. Then, it's about basic knowledge and organizational skills.
When I first came to America from Guyana, my uncle told me, "it doesn't matter what you want to be, you just have to be the best you can possibly be. If you are serious about being a chef, be the best chef YOU can be". That advice has shaped me both personally and professionally.
Try to remember, it's never about what others think of you, it is what you think of yourself that matters most.
My experience working at The River Café in New York shaped my career and showed me that to make it in this industry you have to be ready to consistently work hard. I was new to America and had this belief that living here was a bed of roses. I soon realized how hard this city was and it takes a lot more than you think to make it in this industry.
I believe in technical learning. Just because you follow a recipe doesn't mean you will get the same end result. If you understand the product and what you are looking for in taste, color, thickness, etc, you are more likely to end up with a consistent product.