May 19, 2014

By: Ryan Hodros, Pastry and Culinary Arts Student

Our class recently finished the fundamentals block of the Culinary Arts program at Auguste Escoffier and are moving on to our second chef of the program.  To commemorate this moment in our education, I interviewed our fundamentals chef instructor, Chef Robert Murphy.

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What’s your background in the culinary industry?

Began my career at 15, at Valente’s Italian restaurant, a fairly large Italian restaurant/catering company, moving my way up into a Sous Chef position, and decided to pursue it as a career.

Went on to do a traditional European-style apprenticeship at the Broadmoor Hotel for three years.

Every year I worked the “Salute to Escoffier” event at the Broadmoor, which included a three day event full of coursed meals, cocktail parties, interactive demos, and a Grand Buffet which included over 100 classical cold food items, and over 100 classical hot food items. 

On the day that I graduated from the apprenticeship, I was promoted into the Sous Chef position in the Penrose Room restaurant, where we quickly earned the Forbes Five-Star, and AAA Five-Diamond awards, making only twelve restaurants in the US with both accolades. I eventually took the position of Chef in the main kitchen which included the banquet department, 24-hour room service, and Sunday Brunch.

What made you want to get into culinary education?

Between the 2 years of Vocational school, and the 3 year apprenticeship, I trained under the same chef instructor for 5 years, Chef Joachim Schaaf. Chef Schaaf was a stern, yet quirky German Chef, who always kept me inspired. He is one of the most hard-working and compassionate chefs I know, and he really inspired me to eventually want to get into education one day.

What is your favorite part of being a teacher at Escoffier?

The first thing that popped into my head when I read this question was, the Faculty and Staff at the school. On day one I figured the entire staff of AESCA was being so helpful, and kind just because it was my first day, and eventually I expected it would all change. Well it didn’t! The compassion, enthusiasm, creativity, passion, empathy, and overall friendliness they exhibit everyday is absolutely incredible, and makes for an enjoyable environment to work in.

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What is the most challenging part of teaching?

The hardest part of being a chef instructor now, rather than being a working chef, is the lack of cooking every day! In the restaurant industry I could jump behind the hot line and cook whenever I wanted to (mostly every day). Being a Chef Instructor, you must remove yourself from cooking, and of course allow the students to do so. Now, don’t get me wrong, I get a great sense of reward from teaching, but sometimes I’m just a line-cook at heart! 

What was your favorite job prior to coming to Escoffier?

Working in the Penrose Room at the Broadmoor Hotel. Very few chefs get the opportunity to work in such a prestigious establishment, with such talented people, such as Chef Siegfried Eisenberger, and Chef Bertrand Bouquin. The experience I gained while working there is absolutely invaluable to my career and has brought me to where I am today. 

What is your favorite thing/dish to cook?

My favorite dish to cook would have to be fresh pasta, specifically Gnocchi (Italian Potato Pasta). 

What advice would you give to students about to come to fundamentals?

First, be humble and open-minded. You may have a background as a cook/chef/culinarian before coming to shook here at AESCA, but you are going to learn a lot of new techniques, and skills. These are basic skills that everyone must first learn before they can become a successful Professional Culinarian. Basic knife skills, making basic soups, cooking plain rice, and straining a lot of stocks is not incredibly glamorous, but how can you make beautiful, elegant, delicious food, without having learned these basic techniques first? We must crawl before we walk, but believe me when I say you’ll be off to the races in no time.

And lastly, if not most importantly, be passionate. Not even the greatest Chef Instructor can teach you how to be passionate. You must have a fire inside of you that loves the art of gastronomy, and bring that fire with you every day, at every moment, whether you’re frying French Fries, busting suds, or sautéing Foie Gras.

Now that I can’t be accused of brown-nosing, I can say that Chef Robert was an excellent teacher who started me down a great path.  I owe everything I learn from this day on to Chef Robert, and I am grateful.  Not only did he teach me a great deal about kitchen techniques, but my palate has expanded quite a bit and I understand the description of food much better than I did before.  This will help me quite a bit in my career as a food/beverage critic.  Thank you Chef Robert, I appreciate everything you’ve done for us!