It takes an incredibly ambitious person to stick it out in the kitchen. Whether at the sink, the salad station, or the stove, the work is meticulous and tedious. And it's work that the entire restaurant depends on to function, though we diners often give chefs all the glory.
Many chefs, though, did prep work in kitchens before landing their own. We asked a few how those jobs prepared them for their dream role.
- Photo by Alex Boerner
- Gabe Barker
Gabe Barker, Pizzeria Mercato
Growing up, I have always worked service-industry jobs. I was a busboy at Magnolia [his parents' restaurant], and I told my parents that I wanted to go to culinary school. They laughed at me and said, "Fine, but you have to work in a kitchen for a year first." My first job was at a French bistro in California. It only took me two to three months to realize that I didn't need to go to culinary school to learn to cook. I started as garde-manger, the salad station. They'd get rid of someone's job and, by process of elimination, I ended up with three stations. It was the first time I realized I'd be successful. And when my family shucks oysters every Christmas. I'm most proud of finally being better at it than my dad.
I use the term chef loosely. Cooks are used to saying "Yes, Chef," but I don't enjoy that. If you spend a day with us, it's light and jovial. I have a half-brother, and I'm the only one foolish enough to stay in the restaurant business. We work really hard and a lot, for not a lot of money. I spend more time with my two sous chefs than I do with my fiancée.