“Welcome to the camp, I guess we all know why we’re here.” These opening lyrics by the Who in their dramatic album “Tommy” referred to an underlying understanding of purpose. Anyone could interject numerous scenarios that point to common beliefs, direction, misunderstandings, reflections, or transitions in a persons’ life. One of those transitions is finding…
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The vision of extreme work ethic always inspires me. Extreme may be an over-used word, but not in the restaurant business. A chef’s life is a life of never-ending focus on food and the workings of his or her kitchen. Yes, I do mean never-ending. In a recent travel show I took note of a…
Why do we bother to create a list of year to come resolutions when more often than not we disregard the list soon after it is written? Is it because of a tradition that lacks commitment, or because we know that we could and should do some things differently? Is it an indirect way of…
Interesting how even after hanging up a chef’s hat I still enjoy being called “chef”. Although I haven’t spent more than one occasional day at a time behind a professional kitchen range in some time, I am still filled with enthusiasm for kitchen life. One of my great joys when holding that position was…
Pride is defined in both a positive and a negative manner. To some, pride is something to avoid: “An irrationally corrupt sense of ones personal value, status or accomplishments.” – Wikipedia – Or as some would label it: “ego”. On the other hand, pride can be viewed in a positive sense: “A humble and content…
In cooking – when you get it right – the right ingredients, the well executed cooking method, the caring attitude of the cook, and the seasoning based on a cook’s palate that has been refined over time – the end result is a memorable dish; a dish that gives people pause when they taste that…
There is a tremendous amount of pride that is churning in professional kitchens. Every cook who is serious about their job is committed to making that picture perfect, properly prepared, and delicious food that is represented on a restaurant menu. Although it may not always seem evident, cooks are happy when their food brings enjoyment…
New York City has been called the center of the universe. For chefs and restaurateurs it is the mecca for the best talent to be found and a place for aspiring professionals to earn their chops, refine their talent and build their personal brand. New York is also very tough on cooks. The best restaurants are in such demand by young cooks that many agree to work as a stage’, dedicating countless hours for little or no money in exchange for knowledge and a resume builder. Thousands of cooks look to cut their teeth in New York while others might enter the New York landscape having built their skill set elsewhere and now seek approval from a very discriminating dining public. There are nearly 25,000 options in the boroughs of New York for guests to find a restaurant meal – an incredible amount of competition. In this type of environment the strong survive and the weak shall perish.
I find that it is always fascinating to follow young cooks who have the passion, the commitment and the patience to set a path from learning how to cut an onion to plating some of the most sophisticated food to be found on any table. The shear dedication and determination necessary to ride the train from point A to point Z can be hard to imagine with many bumps along the way. Those who make it – deserve it.
I have had the pleasure to watch many young culinarians reach their goals and feel for even more who falter along the way leading them to seek a different career path. One who has followed his dreams and continues to impress all who know him and enjoy his food is Chef Tyler Scott. He agreed to this interview as an opportunity to demonstrate a path for others. He is an inspiration to me.
1. What or who influenced you to pursue a career in food and beverage?
“I would have to say my mother and aunt. Growing up, even though she was working full time, my mother still made time to produce bread, and pastry items from scratch as well as can jams from all the summer berries. We didn’t have many traditions or family rituals but I always looked forward to cinnamon rolls at Christmas and strawberry short cake well into long Western New York winters.
My aunt, on the other hand, taught me the importance of being specialized and that if you are liberal with the use of anything let it be butter. She only cooked three things: French toast, Snicker Doodles, and city chicken, but all of them were uniquely hers in some fashion and delicious”.
2. Who mentored you in your pursuit of this career?
“I worked for a number of talented chefs over the years but two really guided me: Brian Skelding and Michael Powell. Chef Skelding instilled the foundations of cooking in me. Then later in my career Chef Powell schooled me on management and leadership”.
3. How would others describe your style of management?
“I believe that others would describe me as being fair and understanding with a strong emphasis on educating the people we employ”.
4. Do you have a business philosophy that drives your operational decisions? If so, can you describe this philosophy?
“Teamwork – I strongly believe that working as part of a cohesive unit is a crucial part to being successful”.
Chefs quickly realize that there is less room for individualism in kitchens than one might think. There are way too many tasks to accomplish, far too many variables that can distract and enormous pressure to be ready for anything and everything to even attempt to work without the complete cohesive nature of a team. This goes beyond “teamwork” and parallels the relationship that a successful sports team would encounter. All for one and one for all is the motto that kitchens live by.
5. Can you name a particular food experience in your life that was your epiphany? An experience that stands out as the moment when you said, yes, this is what I need to do.
“My first job after graduating from Paul Smith’s College was at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. I worked more and with more intensity during my time there than I ever had before in my life, but the first time I really held down a station on the main line and felt that rush of adrenaline I was hooked”.
6. What is your pet peeve about working in the food and beverage industry?
“The never-ending debate over meat temperature correctness drives me nuts. It is comical as well as irritating, especially in an age where chefs are so popular and information so accessible. This may appear to be a small thing, but it seems impossible to find two people (cooks or guests) who can agree on what medium rare looks like”.
7. Who are your most valuable players in the operation where you currently work?
“Hands down Oscar. We have a small staff at Ze Café and it is easy to see when someone is not pulling their share. Oscar is young with no formal training prior to this job, but you can see that he understands the foundations of what makes you successful as a cook on a daily basis”.
8. If you had an opportunity to provide some guiding light to young cooks, bakers or hospitality students looking to make their mark in this business, what would you tell them?
“Hard work pays off – period. Also, when the time comes and someone gives you a shot – have a clear idea of what it is that you want to do and how you are going to do it”.
9. When you hire people to work in your business what traits are you looking for?
“I look for a positive outlook on life, adaptability, and a willingness to learn. A positive outlook is huge for me in the work place, I try to smile and keep a bright mind set. This attitude helps with productivity and creates a more pleasant work environment. So I try to employ people with a similar attitude”.
10. If you were not working in food and beverage, what would you choose to do for a career?
“I would choose something that would keep me in close contact with the outdoors. I am an avid fly fisherman so maybe a guide”.
11. What would you like people to know about your current business and the products that you produce or sell?
“Ze cafe is a small restaurant with a French influenced menu. We focus on freshness and quality of product. During most of the year we are privileged to receive fruits, vegetables, and eggs from our owners farm just south of Albany, New York”.
I had the pleasure of watching Tyler grow from his early days as a culinary student and captain of our student culinary team. Tyler’s experiences since then brought him from the Greenbrier, America’s premier American Plan Hotel to his current role as Sous Chef for Ze Café. Along the way, he followed his culinary dreams from coast to coast as defined in this bio from Ze Café website:
“Born in Buffalo New York, Chef Scott spent his pre-college years working in restaurants. Upon graduating high school he attended Culinary Arts and Service Management at Paul Smith’s College.
While at Paul Smith’s Tyler was the Co-captain on the school Cold Food Team, which received two gold and silver medals at the New York City Food Show.
Shortly after graduating he was selected for the apprenticeship program at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia where he was immersed in the world of Classical French Cuisine.
Returning home after three years, he worked as a Sous-Chef to Chef Scott Bova at The Athenaeum Hotel in Chautauqua, NY for the summer season of 2008. The following fall, Tyler moved to Portland, Oregon where he was able to pursue his interests in farm to table dining, butchering and Charcuterie working as a Sous -Chef under Ryan Bleibtrey at Urban Farmer Restaurant.
Tyler returned to Western New York to work for Chef Jonathan Haloua at La Fleur a Four Diamond Award Restaurant in Mayville, NY. After working at La Fleur, Tyler was offered the Chef de Cuisine position at the Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club where he worked for 4 years. He returned to work with Chef Jonathan in the summer of 2013 at La Fleur and joined the Zé Café team Fall of 2013.”
Ze Café receives exceptional reviews as a top tier French inspired restaurant in New York. The next time you are in “the city” stop in for dinner and ask for Chef Tyler. Satisfaction guaranteed! Visit their website at:
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Having finished fabricating his fish for Friday prep, Jake moved on to the other proteins on his mise en place list. Venison tenders and Wagyu beef tenders were trimmed of their silver skin and portioned: three-ounce medallions on the venison and four ounces on the beef. The chain from the beef tender would be ground as part of the burger meat for the bar menu and the boot would wind up as tenderloin tips for the Saturday feature. Pheasant, airline style breasts were removed from the carcass leaving the frames for stock that the commissary-shift would use tomorrow. Finally, Jake removed the braised and chilled lamb shanks from their gelatinized braising stock and trimmed them in preparation for re-heating to order. The stock would be reduced with a caramelized mirepoix, red wine and fresh rosemary to accompany the shanks with a side of polenta. “ There”, thought Jake, “all of the proteins were set”.
It was now 3:30 and Jake knew that time was creeping up. He still had not even touched the prep for his vegetables and sauces as well as the set-up of his line station. While he washed and sanitized his table and reached for a new cutting board, he noticed that the other line cooks and interns had arrived and were busy working on their own “mise”. He felt better knowing that he had arrived early and would some how be ready for the chefs pre-meal tasting at 5:00.
Now it was time for some rapid knife work. To save time, Jake took a few minutes to write down all of the vegetables he would need so that he could make one trip to the walk-in, saving time and energy. He collected onions, shallots, garlic, leeks, Yukon gold potatoes, plum tomatoes, baby carrots with tops, chanterelle and shiitake mushrooms, Italian parsley, apples, asparagus and assorted herbs. Once again Jake drew his knives across a stone and steel, washed them and wiped them dry. He was ready.
Jake was masterful with a chef’s knife and bird’s beak. He had, after all, been going through this routine for many years leading to the point where his knives were simply an extension of his hands. Jake was focused but generally pretty easy going. Everyone liked him and respected him but also knew to stay away from his knives. These were his tools and no one else had any business using them (pretty much the rule of thumb with any serious cook). Jake attacked the vegetables dicing, mincing, cutting julienne strips from the leeks, trimming the baby carrots leaving a 1 inch length of green tops as a visual accent, pureeing the shallots so that they would actually melt in a sauté pan, trimming the stems of the chanterelles to make them tender, peeling the bottom half of precisely cut asparagus spears, picking parsley leaves for a garnishing salad on scallops, and cutting fresh herbs with a razor sharp knife into a chiffonade. In some cases vegetables (like the carrots) would be blanched and shocked in ice water so that a simple sauté movement in a pan would finish them in a few seconds at service time. While all of this was taking place, Jake found the time to start the reduction for the lamb shanks and was keeping a close eye on a beurre blanc that he was working for the fish. Time was flashing by. It was now 4:15 and he needed to finish his sauce work and set-up his station.
Moving to his set-up, Jake washed down everything again, counted out his sauté pans and moved them to a 600 degree oven for tempering, clarified his butter for sauté work, lined up his 9th pans for the roll top mise en place cooler, filled everything as per his standard arrangement (everything has a place and everything is in its place), folded a dozed clean side towels, made sure that his burners worked well, stacked plates under the lamps in his station – ready for service, filled a sanitizer bucket with water and the right amount of bleach, and once again drew his knives across a steel. The last step was to bring out his proteins to the lowboy coolers, strain his sauces, set-up his beurre blanc in a bain marie, soften some raw butter for finishing and breathe. It was 4:45 and the chef would be around in 15 minutes to check on mise en place and taste sauces. Jake scrubbed his hands for the 30th time today and grabbed a sandwich from the staff meal set-up while mentally working through his completed prep. He was ready.
Jake popped open a Red Bull and grabbed another double espresso. He would need to be on fire in a few minutes and welcomed the double jolt. While he waited for the chef he looked around at the other line cooks and interns, still a bit behind. He smiled to himself still realizing that in a few minutes he would need to jump in and give them a hand leading up to the restaurant opening at 5:30. He thought to himself again how lucking the interns were to have the ability to go to school for culinary arts. He wondered how much they really appreciated the opportunity and were willing to do what it took to become a great cook. He knew that if he had the chance, he would give 100% to every opportunity to learn. Unfortunately, it was not in the cards for Jake. He then thought about the chef as he left his office for the pre-meal check. Jake thought the world of this chef, the best he had worked for. The chef was talented, professional, totally committed and very hardworking. He was tough but fair, someone that Jake would certainly try to emulate. He did wonder if the chef still remembered what it was like to be a line cook.
Time to focus. The chef was at his station. “Jake are you ready”? “Yes Chef”! As he tasted his lamb demi and beurre blanc, Jake was confident and although the chef didn’t say anything, the fact that he simply moved on to the next station was a way of saying that Jake was spot on. The chef did bark at a few of the other staff members who were clearly not ready so Jake jumped in to give them a hand. Cooking was, after all, a team sport. It was now 5:15 and tickets would begin to spit from the printer any minute. Jake grabbed another Red Bull while helping others in these final minutes.