Nick Rummell: What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?
David Slater: I'm from Toronto originally. It's a multicultural city, and my parents were big foodies. They made sure I went to their favorite restaurants, and introduced me to a bunch of ethnic food and to fine dining at a young age.
NR: Did you attend culinary school? Do you recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks?
DS: Yes, I went to Florida Culinary Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida. I started my career at Big City Tavern in West Palm Beach. Worked there for a while, and then moved from Florida to New Orleans to work at Windsor Court Grill. I guess culinary school is what you make of it. Culinary skills are basically teaching people that they're chefs before they're ready for the real world. School definitely teaches you the basics if you want to learn. But it's what you make of it.
NR: How are you involved in your local culinary community?
DS: Through Emeril's we do a lot of work through the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, which raises money for needy children. It built the kitchen at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts culinary program. New Orleans is like a fraternity. Everyone knows each other, and we try to help one another.
NR: What's the toughest thing you've had to do in your job?
DS: Sacrifice. I've spent much less time with my family and the majority of my time at the restaurant. Everything else in life is on hold when you're in this industry. You have to make this—cooking—your passion.
NR: What does success mean for you?
DS: I don't think I'm successful yet. There's always more to learn. Everyone has a longer way to go.
NR: Where do you see yourself in five years?
I want to continue doing stuff with Emeril. He's an amazing person to work for. He still comes into the restaurant. He'll come in, kick me out, and work. I love talking with him about food. It's comfortable, but this company … it just doesn't feel like a company. Every restaurant has its own identity, of course, but Emeril's
feels like a family.