March 20, 2014

After years of tending bar and serving for Hillstone Restaurant Group (including Denver’s Cherry Creek Grill), Suzanne Clancy made the leap from front to back of the house when she enrolled as a Culinary Arts student. Today Clancy still works for Hillstone, this time around as the kitchen manager for Manhattan’s Hillstone restaurant on Park Avenue. She attributes her time at Escoffier and interactions with fellow classmates for helping her refine the culinary vision she had for herself: running a kitchen. Here Clancy shares what a day in the life of a kitchen manager looks like and how her time on Colorado farms help her today.

Escoffier: What does an average workday look like for you?
Clancy: So busy, but it is amazing! I start an early day at 4:00 a.m. taking the train to work. I receive orders, cut a lot of meat and fish, manage my people, am involved in the service and execution of food on the line, do a lot of ordering, and also do training. I receive the best products I possibly can and spend a lot of time communicating with purveyors. I also spend a lot of time in my walk in! I don’t know how exciting that all is, but I enjoy it.

Escoffier: Can you tell us what it is like to manage a team?
Clancy: Cooking is the easy part: managing the ingredients, cutting, cooking. When you add employees into the equation that is the unpredictable…and enjoyable part. Like when your dish machine breaks and you triumph as a team – that happened recently. I really love interacting with people and helping them meet their goals, it is just great!

Escoffier: That is a big job; do you have any advice for people entering a management role?
Clancy: Don’t stress out and treat others well. You can study all you want about food, but if you don’t know well enough about how to interact with people and lead them to your shared goals, it’s going to be a problem. Strive to be a good leader.

Escoffier: How did school help to prepare you for your role now?
Clancy: It helped prepare me in several different ways. It was great to get in and practice. I refined my game while in school. I was able to behave the way I needed to with others by being encouraged to maintain a professional, direct relationship with my classmates. It allowed me to create the culinary vision that I had for myself. I developed a vision for myself, spending time with [my classmates]. I knew I wanted to be at the top of the kitchen. I was very hopeful of winding up there and am very glad to be there now.

Escoffier: Are there any specific school experiences that you find helpful in your role as kitchen manager?
Clancy: So much that was helpful. One of the nicest features was going to the farm and getting the connection to where everything was coming from. For me, I get everything in boxes from a purveyor on a truck and it is nice to backtrack in my head and see where things came from and what is nice about the product.

Escoffier: Do you have any advice to share with current students?
Clancy: There is so much! You’ve got to have thick skin. You absolutely have to love what you are doing otherwise there is just no sense in moving forward. You set the tone for the kitchen and you are with people who are doing this for their livelihood. If you are not enjoying yourself…you have to love it!

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