One of my favorite Chinese proverbs states that “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Since passing the exam I’ve been asked on several occasions “what’s the one piece of advice I would give to an up and coming culinarian?” My response to those questions consistently has been “if you want to be respected as a great chef one day, then start preparing and thinking great now”! I am a firm believer of how you practice is exactly how you will perform…and this theory is grossly tested when you are placed under a very stressful situation.

Being prepared for that once in a lifetime opportunity will determine if the sacrifice truly

paid-off. During my early years of competitive cooking, I had to learn that having a prior understanding of what was required and being able to mentally strategize my game plan was far more effective than just walking-in and hoping for the best. This approach is a challenge for young culinarians as most feel that their 2-year education and a certificate of completion has no qualified them to be an executive chef (FALSE: at this point as a culinarian, your journey has just begun). And being able to create a beautiful plate (which took 4 hours to produce) and posting it on social media does not equate to true skills. Cooking for your personal ego might make you feel good inside, but it does not warrant the title “celebrity or master chef”! This profession takes years of dedication and commitment to exercising your skills in order to warrant respect. You must give people a true reason to celebrate you!

Pursuing a career as a culinarian in this profession is a lifelong journey filled with a tremendous amount of adversity and uncertainty. The life of a culinary professional requires a great deal of sacrifices, both personal and professional. By practicing the core fundamental theory known as mise en place, you can lay the foundation to a long and prosperous culinary career. The interpretation for the French phrase mise en place means “putting in place” or to organize and arrange. Nothing is more important in the culinary world than having structure, discipline, and a solid game plan for this lifelong journey (this game plan can change but needs to be a literal running document that you consistently refer back to).

According to National statistics close to 40,000 employees and staff leave the hospitality

industry each year, which equates to 20% of the total sector workforce. Contributing to these alarming statistics are those individuals who entered the industry with the misconception that instant stardom and high salary demands are common trophies of the profession. While there is tons of money that can be made in this industry, it takes years of experience, knowledge of craft, and ultimately, a high level of technical skill to be competitive for those few lucrative opportunities. So it’s extremely important that the true reason for entering this field is based solely on your love for people, passion for food, and obsession with your skill development. Given that retention of qualified, committed employees is the most important objective for operators, having a strong personal drive and a solid understating of the challenges of this industry will help you navigate your culinary journey to success.

Here’s 7 keys to success EVERY culinarian should know:

Learn how to cook first. There’s nothing more disappointing than a self-promoted, so-called chef who can’t boil water. Being able to demonstrate the core principles of cooking is the common thread that connects us all. Just remember people want to eat and not just be entertained.
Respect the title of Chef. In this day and age, anyone who stands in front of a stove and wears a coat with a few tattoos are now chefs. Ok fine…but can you consider yourself a professional chef without true experience and developed knowledge of the craft? I can shoot a basketball with the best of them, but I’m not a professional unless I can go head-to-head with LeBron James….understand!
Work the line. I don’t know where this stigma came from that working the line at a restaurant is such a bad thing. My most fondest memories was the deep bond I developed with my culinarian family while working on the line. Trust me, there’s nothing like being in the trenches producing your best food for completes strangers 6 hours straight! Ask any chef and they will say the same thing (well.. maybe that’s just me…lol). The point being, the line is where the heart is strengthened. So go crank it out…it will pay off one day!
Practice how you want to perform. If you want to be respected and well known, then be respectful and professional to everyone you meet. If you want to be considered one of the best, then work hard to be one of the best young culinarians and cooks now! You wouldn’t wait until someone knocked on your door at home to begin cleaning up the house. So don’t wait until you get that next position before your begin demonstrating those duties and skill traits. If you are hesitant to open the door (more times than not, it’s due to lack of preparation), then opportunity will simply walk away and seek another!
Don’t be afraid! Fear lurks around each corner of this profession, but the one thing that is stronger than fear is confidence! So it’s ok to be nervous or even a little fearful, but use that fear as motivation to solidify your abilities. Mastering your skills is the only way to gain a high level of confidence.
Be humble and listen! There are only a few things that make me sick to my stomach, and that’s warm food and arrogant people…especially cooks who think that they own the culinary world. My good friend Chef Edward Leonard, CMC would always say “young man….keep that humble-confidence!” The more humble you are, the more that is given to you. Although being humble is important, having a willingness to listen and a work ethic is also equally essential!
Failure is Ok! Nothing teaches you better that failure! The more that you fail, the less you keep failing…think about it!

Remember: No matter what level you want to be on, you must begin that journey now and practice exactly how you want to perform!

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