What It Takes To Become A Chef
From having written several bestselling books on America’s vibrant restaurant culture, including the best seller “Becoming a Chef,” to working at top restaurants, Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page have earned the title of foremost experts on the secrets of success behind America’s best chefs and restaurants. So we asked Andrew, what does it take to become a chef?
Andrew’s Kitchen Tracks
Andrew’s journey to become a chef began when he was a 15-year-old working at McDonald’s. Although it wasn’t culinary, it was a good start. He then moved onto working at the Holiday Inn in Cody, WY as a cook. At that point, he didn’t become a chef just yet. Andrew’s first notable cooking position was in the kitchen of James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Schlesinger of the East Coast Grill in Cambridge, MA. He then worked for another James Beard Award winner — chef Lydia Shire at Bilba.
In 1992, Andrew moved to New York City and worked with Anne Rosenzweig. At the time, she was named First Lady Hilary Clinton’s Kitchen Cabinet of American chefs. She advised the White House on the transition from French menus, foods, and wines to menus of English-spotlighting American foods and wines.
This all may sound very alien to you, but should you enroll in a culinary arts program at a reputable school to become a chef, you’ll get it in no time.
Expert Chef Advice
Andrew won a scholarship to study with Madeleine Kamman at the School for American Chefs at Beringer Vineyards. He attended, then earned his sommelier certificate from the Sommelier Society of America. Andrew knew understanding wine, as well as food is vital knowledge to become a chef.
While Andrew doesn’t have an actual culinary degree — he’s one of very few successful exceptions — he recognizes the importance of one in order to become a chef. “In this day and age, [a culinary degree] is virtually a prerequisite for landing a job in a top kitchen,” he says. “While you don’t have to necessarily get a four-year degree in culinary arts, a student who wants to become a chef should definitely go to a school from which the restaurants you aspire to work for seek out students for hire.”
From getting in the kitchen game and working for some awesome restaurants, don’t forget to take a detour to college or a culinary program, advises Andrew. He also suggests that a student aspiring to become a chef should also dine out in the very best restaurants (you can afford, that is). “Go in, and have a few appetizers and a glass of wine at the bar,” he says. “You can learn more about extraordinary cuisine and service from tasting and experiencing it.”
If you want to become a chef, take Andrew’s advice to heart. Research reputable culinary arts programs, enroll, and don’t forget to make the most out of the experience — in and out of the kitchen.