Podcast Episode 21

Daryl Shular: Starting At The Bottom, Becoming A Master Chef

Daryl Shular | 39 Minutes | November 16, 2021

In this episode, we speak with Master Chef Daryl Shular, founder and CEO of Daryl Shular Hospitality Group.

Raw talent and hard work are integral parts of Daryl’s upbringing. He is the world’s first African-American and minority chef to earn the prestigious title of Master Chef – which he received after passing the grueling 130-hour, 8-day exam in 2014.

Daryl has also won twelve gold medals in local and national cooking competitions, including the Culinary Olympics, and has been inducted into the Smithsonian African-American Museum in Washington, DC.

Listen as we chat with Chef Daryl about career advice for struggling young chefs, his passion for educating the next generation of culinarians, and the work ethic and principles that have guided his culinary journey.

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Notes & Transcript


Kirk Bachmann: Hi everyone, my name is Kirk Bachmann, and welcome back to The Ultimate Dish. In today’s episode, we’re speaking with Master Chef Daryl Shular, one of the most talented, respected and highly-decorated chefs in the country. He’s the founder and CEO of Daryl Shular Hospitality Group, a family of four culinary institutions that are shaping not only the art of serving exquisite meals and sustainable practices, but also the process by which we educate, train, and support the next generation of chef-preneurs.

Daryl has won 12 gold medals and eight Best in Shows in local and national competitions, one of which was won against 63 teams at the IKA Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany. He’s one of the youngest and one of only a few African-American chefs to be featured in the prestigious American Historical Archives, the HistoryMakers. He was inducted into the Smithsonian African-American Museum in Washington D.C.. And last, but most definitely not least, Chef Daryl earned the culinary industry’s highest honor of Master Chef when he passed the grueling 130-hour, eight-day Master Chef exam in 2014. He is the world’s first African-American to accomplish this achievement.

Join us today as we chat with Chef Daryl about the principles that guide his culinary journey, and the innovative ways that he and his team are making waves in the industry.

Welcome, Chef! How are you?

Daryl Shular: Kirk, my friend, how are you, sir?

At the Old Playground

Kirk Bachmann: Really good, buddy. Really good. Love the background. You’re in your element there in Atlanta, right?

Daryl Shular: I’m in my playground right here. This is my home. I love it.

Kirk Bachmann: That’s your playground. Hey, I should say, Congratulations to the Atlanta Braves. World Series Champions, huh?

Daryl Shular: Finally after a long, long stretch, we got it.

Kirk Bachmann: Yes. Since the ‘90s. That’s awesome.

Daryl Shular: I love it.

Kirk Bachmann: You know, there are so many memories and emotions that come rushing in when I look at the website for your enterprise and I see the old Le Cordon Bleu Atlanta space. Has that been just unbelievable? Because you were the executive chef there for a long time. Is it a lot of fun? Does it just feel like home for you?

Daryl Shular: It really does. I remember the first time coming back here, and it was like going back to your childhood home. All the memories just started to flow back into your mind and you just say, “Wow! I’m back here again. What a complete 360!” And to be here and this legacy that we built. We really built something special at Le Cordon Bleu. And you know, we spent some time together in Chicago and here in Atlanta, and we knew that we were at the forefront of this industry and the turn that this industry was taking with culinary arts. So to be back here launching the Shular Institute, to continue that legacy, I’m super proud and honored to be back here again.

Kirk Bachmann: Well, you impacted so many students that came through that campus over the years as well. Super, super cool story. I have to mention, too, as I see you and start to communicate with you again, I remember when you came to Chicago a few times to train for the Master Chef exam. It was such a thoughtful and amazing experience for the students and the faculty and the staff members who assisted and were in awe every single day. We had no idea what was going to happen. The great chef Ed Leonard was there, and so many great, great people. Thank you for those memories. Those are some of the memories that I really cherish; being able to watch you develop. I remember that you’re such a tall chef, I remember you had to have that little apparatus that brought the food up a little higher to you, back in the day.

Daryl Shular: My little Optimus Prime, there.

Setting Goals

Kirk Bachmann: Yeah, yeah. At the end of the day you’ve carved out a very, very impressive culinary career for yourself. I have to ask right off the bat: was becoming a Master Chef always a goal, or did it just kind of happen organically as the next logical step in your journey?

Daryl Shular: That’s a great question. Becoming a Master Chef really didn’t come on my radar until years into my career. Only thing I knew that I wanted to be someone great in this industry and be respected. And it wasn’t until when I graduated from culinary school and the chef that actually gave the commencement speech, his name was Chef Darryl Evans and he was on the 1992 Culinary Olympic Team. Rest his soul, unfortunately he passed away in 2014 a few months before I took the exam. But just sitting there as a 19-year-old kid and listening to him speak, I said to myself, “Wow! If he can do it, I can do it. Wow! His name is Darryl. My name is Daryl.” And what’s great about this story is that I had an opportunity to really work with him and really develop.

So then I said, “Hey, I want to be on the Olympic Team as well.” And everything that I did up until that point from training with chefs and doing competitions and traveling around the Southeast doing all kinds of ACL salons and getting medals and getting feedback from judges led me to become a member of the 2008 Culinary Olympic Team with Chef Edward Leonard and Chef Jill Bosich. And that platform allowed me to have the tools that I’d need to go and pursue the ultimate goal, of course, to become the Master Chef.

And, you know, we all have mastered the art of cooking. Let’s just go ahead and establish that. There are so many chefs in this world who have mastered the art of cooking, but I didn’t want just the self-imposed title. I wanted to go do something that a lot of people said couldn’t be done. And especially of people of color, they just said that the test wasn’t designed for us. And I said, “Well, unfortunately it will be designed for us.” So everything that I did was to go and attempt to take this test and to be successful at it. In 2014, as you know, I’ve been able to pass and be a representation of the certified Master Chefs.

On Becoming a Master Chef

Kirk Bachmann: Such a great answer. Such a great story. I had the good, good fortune of meeting Chef Darryl Evans as well, in Scottsdale. He was a guest speaker for the Scottsdale Culinary Institute. We spent a little bit of time together. Super, super impactful human being. Thanks for reminding me of that great story.

So you just brought this up a little bit. What does it mean to you to be the first African-American to accomplish this feat that in many, many ways people thought couldn’t be done? There’s only seventy total Master Chefs anyway, in the United States, right? Seventy…

Daryl Shular: I think it’s 72.

Kirk Bachmann: 72. Yeah

Daryl Shular: The number is right around 72, 73. It was never my intention, Kirk, to be the first. That was never the goal. The goal for me was just to become a CMC, period, whether I was the second, third, or fourth or whatever. I just wanted to pursue my goals and achieve it and just be an example for those people, even from my community, or any community, to say, “Hey, Chef Daryl can come from central Florida with a single mother who worked in the citrus industry who made $10,000 a year, that lived in a little two-bedroom home, barely 400 square foot.” For me to come out of those situations and those circumstances and be a living testament that someone like me who didn’t really grow up around restaurants or food, anything like that, to go from being a kid in Polk County to a Master Chef, one of 72 in the world, I think that’s the story that I really wanted to tell.

Not only to obtain that credential, but to be a student all over again, because to master your craft is to not only be a master at the pinnacle, but also go back and be student all over again and be the ultimate servant. Because even here in my operation, a lot of people are just very surprised that I have a mop in my hands since I’m mopping the floor. Or sweeping underneath the stations and busing dishes. I think that’s the humility that you should have whenever you’re pursuing something of the ultimate title there.

So I’m just proud to be a part of the group of talented world chefs, 72 Master Chefs, and just to be a good representation and to lead and guide other people to be a CMC as well.

Kirk Bachmann: I think I know how you’ll answer this, but is that your most proud achievement, or where you sit right now impacting young people that come to you? Is that even more impactful now?

Daryl Shular: I think it just continues to grow. I think at that time, being a CMC was my life dream. And after you attain a title, then what do you do with that then? So then, my goal was to say, “Okay, now let’s go and help as many people as we possibly can with this gift that I have and this voice that I have. To go out there and lead the pathway and lighten the pathway so others who feel like they’ve been voted less likely to succeed, and those who’ve been defeated, to show them that they can overcome those obstacles and pursue a life in the hospitality industry and one day be a master of their craft as well.

A Mother’s Influence

Kirk Bachmann: Sure, sure. A lot of respect comes with that. Thank you for that.

We all have reasons for the things that we do, why we pursue certain careers, certain paths. And for many chefs and cooks that I’ve spoken with, it’s linked to childhood memories, or some life events that exposed them to some passion related to culinary. For me being a fourth generation chef and super proud, following my father and my grandfather’s footsteps, I always felt like I would follow their lead, right? But for me, it wasn’t until a very, very emotional moment in my life – I was probably in my twenties – when my father was taking care of my mother who had become ill. [He was] leaving the operation, our family restaurant, to me, and it wasn’t until then that I realized that this is my career. I can do this. Not to get too deep into it, but it was a late Saturday night. We just wrapped up service. But my father was the pastry chef. I was cuisine. I knew it was going to be a long night of prep getting ready for brunch service the next morning without my father. There I was, by myself in the kitchen. He was really known for his profiteroles and a lot of other pastry work. There I was in the middle of the night praying that this pâte à choux would puff. “I need this to work!” And when it did, I remember just weeping. Missing my family but also, it worked. I did it! This is my career.

You talked about your mom a little bit. Can you paint that picture for us, that moment in your career when you knew, “This is it. This is what I have been chosen to do”?

Daryl Shular: Wow! Kirk. Beautiful story, thank you for sharing that. I think our passion always, at least for me and most chefs that I’ve met, their passion began at home. Normally it’s tied to our parents, either your mother or father. In my case, it was my mother. Unfortunately, in 2017, she passed away, so the memoriy that I have from her was that she would always say to me that she saw me in a dream before I was born. She said, “You know, Daryl, you’re supposed to be someone great.” And of course, I could have chucked that up to Ma being this Christian lady who just believes in everything, God, whatever, and not really took that to heart. But I took that to heart, and I said, “you know what? I’m going to try to live by her dream, through me, and be that greatness that she saw in me.”

I remember the time when, in 2004, I went to Orlando as one of four chefs who competed for a national competition for nutrition. I remember walking in. It was at the ACF conference in Orlando, and we had a judges meeting. So I walk in and I see all these chefs, and they’ve got all their badges on their coats, and I’m coming in with this little raggedy chef coat on. I was just so terrified, and I was just so defeated mentally. Like, “Wow! They just look like they’re going to do better than me.” And I remember telling my mother that, and she was like, “Don’t worry about what people look like or what they possess. Just worry about you and making sure that you possess and showcase the best of you.” And I went back, and I competed. And it was only the four chefs that represented the United States, and I won the competition and got a national title.

Kirk Bachmann: Wow! Wow!

Daryl Shular: And it was that moment that I said to myself, “You know what? Daryl, you can do this.” And from that point on, I just went for the highest goals, and I just challenged myself to do more and more, regardless of how hard it was. For me, that was my motivation. If it was simple, I did not want to do it. If it was something hard and challenging, that got me out the bed in the morning. That got me working the seven, eight hours beyond my scheduled time at work, and just putting in the effort to just get to that goal. And I’m here now with the Shular Institute showcasing another generation on how they can take their career to another level by pushing and overcoming obstacles as well.

Studying and Working to Achieve Greatness

Kirk Bachmann: That’s a great story. Give me the timeline of that. Where were you in your career prior to coming to be the executive chef in Atlanta? Was that a decade prior? Fifteen years prior, or something, when you won that competition?

Daryl Shular: So this was in 2004. And I graduated culinary school in 1993.

Kirk Bachmann: Okay.

Daryl Shular: I worked throughout the industry here in Atlanta, a lot of different restaurants and hotels and I wanted to have that diversity, so I kind of bounced around a little bit, kind of like what we do early on in our careers.

Kirk Bachmann: Sure. Sure.

Daryl Shular: And then at that point, I just got really heavy with the ACF and started to do a lot of competitions because I knew that – the first time I tried out for the Olympic Team was in 2003 for the 2004 team, and it didn’t go well at all. I walked away very defeated. And I said to myself, “How do I position myself to be successful next time?” So I had to humble myself and say, “Okay, let’s study those guys who made the team.” So I researched every single chef who made the Olympic team, and I saw that, “Hey!” One, they won a bunch of gold medals. Two, it was heavy in the ACF. They did some competitions ahead of time. They had some international experience. And so I just put my name in a hat with every culinary competition I could get into just so I could test myself working in different environments, put myself under those very strenuous circumstances and just really working hard to achieve those goals.

In the 2004 story that I just told you, I won the national title. It was a period of time where I was winning competitions, just really doing well. And that’s when I really felt like I was ready to become a member of the U.S. Olympic team. In 2006 I tried out in Chicago, Illinois, and made the team, and in 2008 we went to Germany and got gold medals.

Kirk Bachmann: That’s amazing. It’s a great story for the students who are listening about perseverance and keeping your eye on the goal. They say that successful people have similar characteristics, and it doesn’t matter what their background or their upbringing is, what their faith is, what their political outlook is. I’m a big sports guy. John Wooden once said that “Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out.”

Daryl Shular: That’s right.

Foundational Principles

Kirk Bachmann: Could you share some of the foundational principles that sort of ground you, right, and drive your work, and how do those principles show up in everything that you do, whether you’re competing or you’re running a successful business?

Daryl Shular: That’s a good question. I think the first thing, first and foremost, is to have self-discipline. I have to control myself. One of the things I always say to myself, “Don’t let Daryl mess up what Chef Shular has.” I think we all have that personal side to us. For me, if I wasn’t a chef, I would be at home, not really doing anything, just relaxing. So I don’t want that side of me really messing things up. I think having that self-discipline is really important.

The second thing, too, is being open to feedback. I think that is so important. That constructive criticism, not only from the people that you work for, but also your peers, the people that you working with on the line. One of the best [pieces of] advice I ever received came from Chef Evans, and he said, “You learn more from the people you actually work with.” I think that a lot of times we get in our shell and we don’t want to listen to the people around us, but I think you have to be open to that and become what I call that global citizen, and learn everyone’s story and point of view.

And then the third thing is to understand the business part of what we do as chefs and being in this hospitality industry, because if you don’t value the amount of time you put into something or the cost that goes into something, then you really won’t appreciate what the final outcome should be. Because if you’re just cooking and you just don’t care about the cost, you don’t care about the time, there’s no love in there at all.

And the reason why I say that is because when my mom should cook, she thought about the amount of money she had to spend to get that whole chicken. To her it probably her four, three dollars for that back then. But in reality it was like a hundred bucks. So guess what? She’s not going to waste that chicken. She’s not going to not put any love into it. She’s going to cherish that thing like a baby and present something that, even today, I remember. So I think for me there’s a lot of core principles that I try to follow, but I think those are the three that I really stand upon. It’s just keeping that intact and being a good team player and professional person.

Practice the Art of Practice

Kirk Bachmann: Yeah. I love the self-discipline. It all starts with that. You think there’s anything missing right now in our industry that can help young and up and coming cooks, chefs, to have more longevity? To own their craft and to maybe even experience at least some of the success that you’ve had?

Daryl Shular: I think young talent needs to understand the art of practice, practicing your craft, because I equate culinary arts as a sport. The more you go out there and shoot those free throws, the better you’re going to become. And I think that’s really important because we think that once we make a dish the first time, the first thing we want to say: “It’s perfect.” I’m sorry, it’s not perfect! You’ve got to work at it. You’ve got to be honest with yourself. You’ve got to dissect that more than just, “Oh, it tastes good. It looks good.” Get into the science of it. Break it all the way down to seasonality. Does it make sense? Does it have a concept? Then once you understand all those nuances that make a really world-class dish, then you have to practice those skills: basic searing, those basic fundamentals that we take for granted.

But I think in this generation, everything is just instant satisfaction, that we lose the art of practicing your craft in any and everything that you do. Prime example: I’ll go in the morning and make me a bowl of oatmeal, but I’ll make it as if I’m doing competition-style. I’m going to hit it with the vanilla. I’m going to grate my cinnamon, a little fresh nutmeg. I’m going to finish it with some fresh cream, my fruit on top. Just really bring it together. Sometimes I put blueberries in there and bake it so they burst, give it that nice color, that nice flavor and that texture. Those are the things you have to do. You have to be a master of your craft now so that when the time comes, you can show that mastery then.

The Value of an Honest Mentor

Kirk Bachmann: Yeah. I love that. When I listen to your story, it’s clear that your mental, emotional, and physical endurance has been tested in some of the most stressful environments that a young cook or chef can enter. You’ve been an Olympian. I can’t imagine the pressure of going over to Europe and competing. Knowing that as your background, how would you advise a young cook that’s struggling? You’ve given them the advice, but they’re still struggling to cross that finish line on their culinary journey and they’re ready to give up. Are there some strong words of advice to keep them going, including what you’ve already mentioned about self-discipline and such? Sometimes people just need aspiration! They need to just be told that it’s going to be okay. Tomorrow will be better than today. I’m sure you see some of that at the Shular Institute now.

Daryl Shular: The first advice I would give is don’t give up, because you’ll never see how close you get to the goal if you don’t try and if you don’t put forth the effort to get there, first and foremost. And the second thing is: find someone that can mentor you. That’s a humbling thing to go and take your work to someone else and say, “Hey, give me the constructive feedback that I need to be better.”

Kirk Bachmann: How to make it better. Yeah.

Daryl Shular: Exactly. My mentor during that time was Chef Edward Leonard. I just remember how he was. I would walk away feeling like, “I can’t boil water. This is is incredible.”

Kirk Bachmann: He’s tough! He’s tough!

Daryl Shular: He was tough, but I thank him for the honesty. I thank him for being direct. I thank him for not looking at me and saying, “Well, he can’t handle the truth. Let me sugarcoat my words.” Sometimes when you’re working with people that sugarcoat their words, I think they’re doing more harm to you than good.

Young culinarians need to find people they can go and work for, and truly work for them, truly be a student. Truly learn. Put forth the effort. Bring something to the table. Bring your professionalism to the table. Bring your endurance to the table. Bring your willingness to be on time, but be early and stay late if you have to. Do all those things that everyone else in the kitchen won’t do, and you’ll find yourself growing to a place to where you’ll start to make huge gains towards your goal.

I had to redefine myself, because I was going in the kitchen, making one dish, going home, taking pictures, call it a day. And it wasn’t working!

Kirk Bachmann: Not enough. Not enough.

Daryl Shular: It wasn’t enough. I had to stay in there almost twelve hours, twenty four hours if I needed to, to get the job done, to achieve the goal that I wanted to achieve.

The Birth and Ideals of Shular Institute

Kirk Bachmann: Great response. Let’s talk a little bit. I love that you’re still involved with education. It all comes back to education, right? The work that you’re doing through Farm Ed and the Shular Institute is really, really exciting. I love the idea of delivering education for the modern entrepreneur chef and hospitality professional. So much respect. All of your ventures, I believe, have this educational component. Super aspiring, helps young culinarians to sharpen their skills, learn from the industry and experts like you, and develop their business acumen, as you mentioned.

Here’s your time for a little plug, Chef. Can you talk a little bit about Farm Ed and, I guess more than anything, how the concept of Farm Ed and the Shular Institute came to life? Why are you so dedicated to mentoring this next generation of cooks and chefs? It’s super important.

Cchef; Well, first and foremost, the vision of the Shular Institute and Farmed Kitchen & Bar came about about six years ago when I was with Le Cordon Bleu. While I was here, I just saw the divide between what students were expecting[to find when they] go out into the industry, what the industry was expecting of them, and what the curriculum was. The curriculum was outdated. It wasn’t at the forefront of the industry. And I said to myself, “Hey, if I ever had an opportunity to launch my own program, I want an institution that would be at the forefront of what we do as hospitality professional.”

You think about the best institutions in the world, like Johns Hopkins, Emery University: those are higher educational institutions, but they are at the cutting edge of modern medicine and technology. So why can’t hospitality and hospitality education be at the forefront again? And I say the word “again,” because at one point, we were. So I created a platform where these students are in a real-world environment, their face forward in front of guests and they have to know what it feels like to have skin in the game.

Because, Kirk, you know just like I know, we used to have students standing around a table and they would spend all day cutting vegetables, and the vegetables would be put into a lexan or a container and it would go in the cooler, and you’d call it a day. How is that really setting you up for success in this day and age when so much pressure is placed on cooks post-pandemic? We want our students to go out in the industry and be Day One ready. So the restaurant, Farmed Kitchen & Bar, is just a playground for our students to come in, exercise those principles, learn a la carte, learn how to manage the front of the house, the bar, the whole nine, and really get that full Day One experience and maximize their time on campus so that when they do go out into the industry, like I said before, they’re Day One ready.

Then the second thing about this operation is that we’re also teaching the business part of what school should be teaching. Because in culinary school, you kind of learn basic food costs. You learn your measurements, you learn your conversions, and things like that. But do you really know how to build a business plan? Do you really know how to read financials the right way? Do you really know how to negotiate with your landlord? Do you know what to look for as far as paying your taxes? Do you know how to communicate with your local municipalities to look at what subsidies are out there to help you launch your business? How to negotiate and meet with vendors and things like that? We give our students an opportunity to really see how it is, to really be entrepreneurs and business owners.

The third pillar of what we do here is the science behind it, because we do know that once you know the science and the culture behind a particular cuisine, then you’re on the right road to mastering that craft. We want our students to know where things come from, whether it’s from a particular region in Georgia. What does the soil look like? How do we get it from the sea to the plate? That information is missing a lot of times in culinary schools. So I wanted to create something that will always stay trendy, that will always keep our students at the forefront of the industry, and put what I call the Navy Seals of the hospitality industry out into the world.

We’re super-thrilled and proud to be here. We actually have our second location in Milwaukee that we’re going to be launching next April, so we’re expanding quite well. We have some large corporation that’s really supporting us so that we can pipe our students into the workforce, but with companies that are going to support them and continue to develop that training. Because it’s important that the continual education continues. We’re super thrilled about the ecosystem that we’ve created here. We’ve just got so many great things happening, and I’m just so glad to have this opportunity to share it.

Planning in a Pandemic

Kirk Bachmann: That’s great. That’s great. Congratulations on that! Talk a little bit about the timing. The last 18 months have been crazy. Did the pandemic throw you a little bit of a curve-ball that made you pivot on some of the techniques and philosophies that you were teaching?

Daryl Shular: Oh, absolutely. The pandemic caused us not to be able to congregate any more. We had to not bring in the students. We had to really look at what we had versus what we’re going into, and how do we get ourselves ready for post-pandemic. Because we knew we were going to come out of this situation. How do you prepare yourself for that post-pandemic world that we’re in. So with my business partner, Sean Rush, we came together and said, “Okay, this is what we’re going to do.”

We really looked at our overall model and then we started to launch certain things in sequence. First, we established a restaurant. The restaurant was open to the community. Starting to put the word out there about what we’re doing. Bringing people into the facility, seeing the facility, tasting the food, meeting some of our students. And then from there, we started doing some of the catering arm. Earth First is our catering operation. Then we started to launch into some of our programming. We have an enthusiast program called Plated where we bring in people from the community into our establishment to allow them to see what it’s like to be an actual, official student of the Shular Institute. But at the same time, we teach them the art of cooking as well. Not only do we have the online program, but also they can come in here and bring friends and family and do all kinds of team-building fun things.

So we just launched a lot of different projects while everything was just shut down. That was probably the best decision that we made because now, we’re on fire. I mean, our operation is the talk of the town here in the Southeast and in Atlanta. We’re getting a lot of press, a lot of publicity. And we’re just so grateful for that time to really re-pivot and get ourselves positioned again.

The CMC Exam Explained

Kirk Bachmann: That’s great. That’s so cool to hear. You planned while you had the opportunity.

I just want to come back to the 130 hour, 8-day Master Chef exam. We can’t [over-emphasize] how difficult that is. Only 72 people have gotten through that. I’ve heard several Master Chefs over the years say that you don’t just show up for the CMC exam to learn; you show up to demonstrate what you know. If you show up to learn, it’s not going to go well. You’ve talked a little bit about how important the business side of the business is. Is that part of the CMC exam as well? Is there a business component to it?

Daryl Shular: Oh absolutely! You’ve got to take [that] into consideration when you’re cooking. They give you a requisition for whatever, global or classical, managing that product is business. Waste, proper yield, butchery, cooking techniques: all that contributes to your bottom line. So while we’re not formulating numbers or anything on the daily basis, but those are the things you just have to have coming to the table or it just won’t translate into the kitchen. That test is the test of a lifetime, so they’re expecting certain things to be within you even before you step to the plate to even take that exam.

Kirk Bachmann: Sure. Sure.

Daryl Shular: I just remember going through it, and each day I was learning what I had to do, but it wasn’t like they were giving out pamphlets and stuff like, “Okay, this is what you need to study.” They would give you a pre-session lecture, but you’re there to show up. And eight days is very difficult for you to BS you’re way through it. I think a lot of people think there are certain people that get through and certain people that don’t. Unfortunately, it’s just what it is. Every chef that goes and takes that test, those are kings of the industry, every single one of them. You’ve got to really be willing to put your reputation and everything on the line, fail or success. That’s a test that takes a lot of courage, and any chef that’s willing to put their career and reputation on the line to take that exam, my hat is off to you. You are a warrior, and I can give nothing but respect for any chef that’s willing to take that test.

I think the future of the test depends on the future of our industry. Those young culinarians coming up – through your program and others – are seeing themselves as one day being a master of their craft and being a Master Chef. We’re hoping that this next generation doesn’t turn their back on this and really embrace it and really pursue it.

The Secret’s Out

Kirk Bachmann: Absolutely. Absolutely. We’ve talked a little bit about Shular Hospitality Group. You mentioned Plated Ed. We didn’t talk about Prep. Prep is kind of the commercial kitchen where small businesses get a little bit of support. Daryl, how do all these entities complement each other? You’ve already talked about some additional ventures, Milwaukee. How does this all come together? Is there a mission and a vision that holds it all together? It’s a lot. You’ve got a lot going on.

Daryl Shular: So you want me to give up my secrets on your podcast?

Kirk Bachmann: Just a little bit.

Daryl Shular: Well, Prep, they’re the landlords of the facility here. They came in and I met with them back in late 2018 just right after the school [Le Cordon Bleu] had closed. Everything in the building was liquidated, and it was just dust in here. We walked the facility, and I was just pointing out things that they should know considering I was the DOE of this property for five years. So as I was walking through, we had some conversations about how we partner up and help launch the Shular Institute, which was always on my plate. We actually met in Nashville, Tennessee when Nashville, Tennessee was going to be our first launching site. Then this facility came about, and then of course we took over, and here we are. So Prep is the landlords in which we launched the school out of.

How everything works together. When I was working at a country club, I had seven different outlets. One core center is the operation, food and hospitality, front of the house, back of the house, it all works together. The same model, kind of like what we’re doing here. The engine is the hospitality piece, the restaurant, the back of the house, front of the house. Then from there we have our catering arm. You have our enthusiast programs. You have some of our educational components which is a little bit off from what we’re doing right now. It’s a whole entity on its own.

But it all works together as part of my mission. I could have gone out there strictly just opening restaurants, just opening businesses, but I had to stay true to my heart. I love giving and I love mentoring.

I will never forget; I was in Orlando with Ferdinand Metz, and he explained to me how he created the Master Chef, the exam. In the United States, in order for you to be a Master, you have to have apprentices. For me, I was like, “You know what? Now since I’m a Master, I want to have apprentices. I want to be able to give back.” Therefore, I created the Shular Institute as another entity outside of what we’re doing. They just all happened to come out at the same time. But it works.

We have a team of people that really oversee some of our projects. We have a dynamic leadership group here. We have about 40 employees nationwide. A huge arm of great professionals driving the quality here. I’m super proud of what we’re doing and where we’re going.

Kirk Bachmann: That’s great. So the secret’s out. The secret’s out.

Daryl Shular: Not all of it.

Advice for Culinary Entrepreneurs

Kirk Bachmann: Some of those secrets…Ferdinand Metz. You’re networking with some of the greatest minds and names in the industry.

If you could give one bit of advice to young culinary entrepreneurs, what would that be?

Daryl Shular: I would say, be ready for the good and bad. I know it’s tough to really picture that, so I’ll suggest this to anyone that’s watching this. There’s a show, a documentary on Netflix called, “Free Solo.” It’s about this young man who actually climbed up the face of El Capitan in California. Watch that video, and that will explain what being a business owner and entrepreneurship is all about. Because at the bottom, you’re climbing up this wall, and you may slip and fall. You may break your arm, twist your leg or whatever. But the higher you get, the harder you may fall, and that’s the risk you have to take. Each movement has to be properly thought out. Each breath you take has to be thought out. It may be your last. And if you’re not willing to go through that, then I would say maybe reconsider being an entrepreneur or business owner. But if you’re willing to take the risk, that’s where the reward is.

Kirk Bachmann: Absolutely.

Daryl Shular: And I think it’s important that you get everyone to buy in on it. You need your family support. You need your friends and family support. Really plan out how you’re going to get through the next couple of years financially, how you’re going to start raising capital. Where are you going to launch? Who are you catering to? Really do your due diligence as a business owner. It’s one thing to put onions in a pot, but it’s another thing to sell those onions.

I think to any entrepreneur that’s out there, don’t be afraid. It is terrifying, but it’s very rewarding to be your own boss and to be able to say, “Hey, I’m taking a chance on my life and my future.” I encourage anyone to go out there and be a business owner, but take advantage of operators right now. Go work out in the industry for X amount of years. Get that experience. There’s nothing wrong with spending a couple of years at a country club, couple years on the line at a restaurant, couple years in the hotel. Build yourself up first, and then take the chance to be a business owner.

Chef Daryl Shular’s Ultimate Dish

Kirk Bachmann: Brilliant. Brilliant advice. And great analogies by the way, too.

Chef, we’ve gotten to the end of our time together, but there’s always one question. The name of the podcast is The Ultimate Dish. So, in your life and your family, what is The Ultimate Dish?

Daryl Shular: Well, the ultimate dish is a tribute to my mother. She would take these oxtails, and she would take this old pot that she had from her great-grandmother. It would still have the burn marks from when they would cook it over charcoal. She would put the oxtails in there with the onions and the carrots and the celery, and she would take this broth that was leftover from the turkey that she would make a couple of weeks before, and she would just put it on top and let it go for about three to four hours. Halfway through she would throw in some potatoes and she would throw in some fresh herbs, and then she would make this beautiful, rich steamed rice bowl, and she would just put big chunks of that broth and oxtails on top with a big chunk of cornbread with some honey. To me, that’s the Ultimate Dish that I remember.

Kirk Bachmann: Oh, that’s beautiful, Chef. You’re a storyteller.

Daryl Shular: I appreciate it my friend.

Kirk Bachmann: That takes us back. Chef, thank you for spending some time with us today. I look forward to seeing you the next time that I get to Atlanta. The funniest story: there’s a gentleman in my neighborhood whose brother was the person that sort of started Prep. That got me going, and I went to the internet and I see Prep and I find everything that you’re doing there. Congratulations again my friend.

Daryl Shular: Thank you.

Kirk Bachmann: Good to see you, buddy.

Daryl Shular: Thank you, and all the best to you. Thank you, my friend.

Kirk Bachmann: I appreciate it.

Thank you for listening to the Ultimate Dish podcast, brought to you buy Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. Visit escoffier.edu/podcast, where you’ll find any of our materials mentioned during the podcast, including notes, links, and other resources. You can also browse other episodes and subscribe.

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