I met a young man yesterday, who desperately wants to be a great chef. He is 23, bright and has the desire to learn. He told me that he was working on a Yacht and that he enjoyed it. I am sure he is learning there, but he is not cooking in kitchens that would have a similar learning experience as Yale, Harvard or Wharton.
It reminded me of a major turning point in my career. I had been cooking for 9 years.
Went to the CIA and FIU, was an apprentice baker for 3 years, worked a…t the Breakers Hotel and The Grand Bay hotel (rip) and The Headquarters Plaza hotel in Morristown, New Jersey.
I realized it was time to work in the city.
I made an appointment with Marc Sarrazin, a French country butcher who became the owner of DeBragga & Spitler Inc., a wholesale meat purveyor to fine restaurants in New York City and a benevolent godfather to generations of young American chefs.
When I met Marc, I was in a suit and had my leather folder with my resume and letters of recommendation.
He looked at it for about 3 seconds and then asked what chefs I worked for.
I told him the chefs names and he asked me again, what chefs I worked for.
He then , for a third time, he asked what chefs I worked for. I started to answer again and he said, stop, you’ve worked for no one over the last 9 years!
He then took out a piece of paper and wrote down the address for the River Cafe and to speak with the Chef, David Burke. He said, “maybe he will give you a job.”
He got up, shook my hand and wished me luck.
As I began to drive to Brooklyn I realized that Marc dismantled me in about 5 minutes.
I arrived at The River Cafe and met David.
He offered me a line cook job, paying $8.75 per hour. It was the turning point of my career!
I will always be grateful to Marc Sarrazin. He placed me into Wharton cooking school and it molded my career!
The moral of the story? Work hard, learn and always work with more talented, more motivated and more creative people than you!