February 19, 2016

Listen Up: 4 More Pieces of Advice For Every Young Chef

Young chefs in training should learn and experience as much as possible in the kitchen.

Young chefs in training should learn and experience as much as possible in the kitchen.

For those enrolled in culinary academy, a little bit of advice can go a long way. Whether it’s practical guidance, observations on cooking trends  or just some basic encouragement, this direction can help culinary students excel at their studies and become better chefs in the long run. To further point the way, here are a few more nuggets of wisdom from truly great chefs:

“Chefs should always try to learn and experience new dishes.”

Eat out. A lot.
Over the years, Jon Shook has cooked at a slew of restaurants in and around Los Angeles, including Animal, Son of a Gun, Trois Familia and Petit Trois. Even with all that experience, he told Thrillist that the best piece of advice was something he learned from his very first mentor: eat out as much as you possibly can. As a chef, you should always try to learn and experience new dishes, and the best way to do that is to enjoy the food yourself. Not only is it a great form of inspiration, but it can also further develop your palate. Plus, you can see what other restaurants and chefs are doing, and there is even some room for potential networking.

Put in the work
By the age of 42, Anita Lo was already the head chef/owner at several NYC eateries, including Bar Q and Annisa. However, she told the New York Daily News that she only got to where she was because of hard work. She advised young chefs to forget the glamour associated with cooking shows and prepare themselves for the challenges ahead. That means usually working six days a week, sometimes for 12 hours per day, in some physically and emotionally demanding environments. But, she explained, if you truly pay your dues when you’re still young, you’re setting yourself up with the skills and attitude needed to succeed later in life.

Take your time
Speaking with DuJour magazine, Italian chef Massimo Bottura bemoaned the fact that so many young chefs are in a hurry to get into the kitchen. He believes that cooking can wait, and students should spend much more time learning about the craft and exploring their unique passions. Whether that’s pastry, vegan cooking, Brazilian barbecue or something else entirely, Bottura said that emotional intensity will make its way into your food and result in tastier dishes. Part of that learning experience is acting like a sponge, absorbing new flavors, techniques and other ideas as a way of building on your culinary skills.

Toss out your recipes
In May 2014, celebrity chef Jose Andres was chosen to deliver the commencement speech at George Washington University. In addition to espousing the virtues of passion, he offered this gem: throw our your recipes ASAP. To non-culinary students, that was a metaphor, but all would-be chefs should take that as a challenge. Yes, recipes offer great framework. But by following these, you’re confining yourself to a box and removing the flexibility that all chefs need to succeed. Instead, you should follow your heart and not be afraid to explore unfamiliar flavors or traditions. The resulting dish may not always be perfect, but you can learn from your mistakes and open yourself up to new and exciting opportunities.