StarChefs in the News

Whittier Daily News - Whittier, CA
May 2006

Chefs cook up career advice
By Rodney Tanaka Staff Writer

PASADENA - Culinary students got a taste of the real world Monday as top professionals gave them career advice and offered insights into their kitchens.

Eleven Los Angeles-area chefs talked to students from the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena in a program organized by StarChefs.com.

Jason Travi, formerly of La Terza, said students shouldn't expect to become a chef right away and make a lot of money.

"You should be excited just to get into a real kitchen," he said. "\ you want the people who will work the hardest for you."

Jill Davie, chef at Josie Restaurant in Santa Monica, said when she first started in the business she worked next to the head chef and learned techniques and recipes. She helped order the food to be prepared and offered to cover other people's work stations.

"When you go to a restaurant, don't even do it for the money," Davie said. "Walk out if it's not in your heart and it's not something you're passionate about."

Walking into a job interview with a culinary arts degree does not mean much, said James Richardson, executive chef and part-owner of Nook Neighborhood Bistro in Los Angeles.

Showing a spark and enthusiasm for the job is more important than the answers a prospective employee gives, he said.

"The important thing is to remember to bring excellent techniques to bear, even on the simplest ingredients," Richardson said.

Some of the chefs came from overseas or worked in other countries. Gregg Wangard, executive chef at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, once worked in the Caribbean, where he learned to greet everyone in the kitchen before starting his chores.

"It taught me how to be a better people person," Wangard said.

Culinary school graduates shouldn't go into their first job thinking they know everything, Wangard said. They must learn from the chefs above them.

"When you get a job you're basically starting over," he said.

California School of Culinary Arts student Robert Porter, 39, who will graduate in November, listened to the panel discussion. He was inspired to enter the field by his mother's home cooking. He said he knows becoming a chef takes hard work.

"I think students need to know how difficult it is," he said. "You work 14-hour days. If you don't love it you'll get burned out quickly."