Though Michelle Dubis is only a recent alum (Culinary Arts November 2012), about to embark on her first post-culinary school job, she has already gained experience and opportunities worthy of a chef years her senior. Dubis embraced opportunities that came her way throughout her time at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts including roles within marketing, the Home Cook program, a private chef gig for a celebrity actor, and the chance to work at Food & Wine Classic in Aspen – ultimately leading to her new job at Dallas’ esteemed fine dining restaurant at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek. She tells about her various experiences with Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, how she landed her incredible new role, and why saying “yes” changed her career path.
Escoffier: Tell us about the various positions you’ve held at the school including roles in marketing and the Home Cook program.
Dubis: [For marketing, I was the] outreach coordinator, a brand new job. Basically, it entails outreach to the community, like [working at] the farmers’ market, giving demonstrations as a market chef. I also connected with the Daily Camera, reinitiating a partnership to do regular recipe articles and demonstration videos (with themes such as grilling, herbs, or fruits and vegetables) on behalf of Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. I worked in Home Cook before I even started the Culinary Arts program. It was a great way to begin to understand mise en place, food prep, learning how to use the equipment, and about [the importance of] plating.
Escoffier: We hear Career Services helped set you up with a personal chef role cooking for a Hollywood actor while he was on location in Colorado – how exciting!
Dubis: I got to be a personal chef for [Hollywood actor] while he was on a shoot in the Boulder area, delivering nightly meals to film sets for five weeks. The client loved spicy foods and insisted on a healthy, no added-sodium diet, with under 600 calorie meals. I even made a makeshift tagine to make tandoori chicken (a client favorite).
Escoffier: Speaking of celebrities, tell us about your experience working at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen and how you got connected with Chef Bruno Davaillon.
Dubis: I went to Food & Wine in June [with other Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts students]. Bright and early Thursday morning, the Executive Sous Chef started to give us all tasks to do before chefs arrived. One of the tasks was to strain chicken stock. After, I went up to the sous chef and he handed me a recipe for cherry sangria soup (a dessert to go with pistachio cookies and pistachio ganache) and told me to start working on it. [While I was working on it] a chef walks past me, looks at what I was doing and said, “Oh, that’s my recipe.” It turns out it was the Executive Pastry Chef for the Mansion, Nicolas Blouin. He immediately [took me under his wing] and had me do a bunch of stuff for him all day. At the end [of the weekend] I was feeling really comfortable with the Bruno Davaillon group, Blouin told me I did a good job, and I gave him my résumé. He said he would be more than happy to recommend me to Davaillon (the Executive Chef at the Mansion).
Escoffier: Did you follow up with him; how did you turn the recommendation into a job offer?
Dubis: Afterwards, I sent Blouin an email to thank him and asked him to keep me in mind for any job opportunities down the line. He emailed back 12 hours later saying that he had already referred me to Chef Davaillon and that there would be a job opening in the fall. I sent another follow-up email in July and didn’t hear anything before Chef Bruno Davaillon followed up with me himself to see if I was still interested in working at the Mansion! I wasn’t sure if this was what I wanted to do, but after learning more and more about the restaurant and the chefs, and thinking back to how I felt in Aspen working for them, I felt it was a no-brainer to try this out and work for the company. Because they offered me the job, I said I wanted to fly down to Dallas and check the restaurant out [before making a final decision]. They helped make that happen with a place to stay (at the Mansion), fed me, and treated me with the best hospitality I’ve ever had – for a cook position! It is a larger company that is still super personal. The chefs there were really nice, explaining about opportunities the company has for growth.
Escoffier: What are you most looking forward to about your new job?
Dubis: Just learning more and hopefully becoming a better chef. Really upping my culinary game. I want to learn to take all the things I have been making and really step them up a few levels. [Side note], on the flight down, I sat next to someone from Dallas. When I told him which restaurant I was checking out, he said, “If you get that on your résumé, you’re set for life.” That felt good.
Escoffier: You’ve had a lot of incredible opportunities…
Dubis: I think [those opportunities came] with all of my hard work and just putting myself out there…when you first start out you can’t say no to things, because you need to figure out what you want to do and saying no could be shutting out really good opportunities. Really good things can come out of any experience. For instance, I was asked to cater an event that didn’t even work out, but in the process, I really connected with the event planner who wants to work with me in the future.
Escoffier: What is the greatest lesson you learned during school?
Dubis: It taught me basic skills, techniques, and how to work well on a team. Both class and my Home Cook experience taught me about urgency in a kitchen. Also to utilize every person to learn more, network, and find out about opportunities to further my culinary career.
Escoffier: Do you have any advice to share with incoming students?
Dubis: Figure out if this is something you really want to do and if you are passionate about it because you have to want it. Realize that you can do so many things with a culinary degree; you don’t have to go into restaurants. You can do so many different things as a chef. Put yourself out there and do things you may not be comfortable with and learn from it. And, ultimately, it is up to you to [make things happen]; other people won’t do it for you.
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