On this week's Chefs Without Restaurants podcast, I speak with chef Alex Smith. While Alex has been in the food and beverage industry for over 20 years now, he’s only spent the last 10 years cooking. He started out in the front of the house, but discovered a passion for cooking. He’s been a line cook, kitchen manager, head chef and pitmaster. He’s worked at Fairmont resorts, five diamond restaurants, franchises, recreational cooking schools, and privately owned restaurants. He’s open seven restaurants, three as head chef.
The past few years, Alex has focused on barbecue, working at Mighty Quinns, Hometown BBQ (both Brooklyn and Miami), and even going to Paris to help open Melt barbecue.
You’re going to hear about his career path, and what he’s learned from opening a number of restaurants. I also got to talk to him about what he's working on now, and what’s next.
And if you want to make sure you catch every episode of the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast, go to chefswithoutrestaurants.org to sign up for our mailing list. The link can also be found in the show notes.
Alex's Instagram https://www.instagram.com/chefalexsmith
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Founder Chris Spear’s personal chef business Perfect Little Bites
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Welcome to the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast. I'm your host Chris Spear. On this show, I have conversations with culinary entrepreneurs and people in the food and beverage industry who took a different route. They're caterers, R&D chefs, personal chefs, cookbook authors, food truckers, farmers, cottage bakers and all sorts of culinary renegades. I, myself, fall into the personal chef category, as I started my personal chef business Perfect Little Bites 10 years ago. And while I started working in kitchens in 1992, surprisingly, I've literally never worked in a restaurant. On this week's episode, I have chef Alex Smith. Alex has been in the food and beverage industry for over 20 years now. But he only started cooking the last 10 years. In that time, he's been a line cook, kitchen manager, head chef and pitmaster. He's worked at Fairmont resorts, five diamond restaurants, franchises, recreational cooking schools and privately owned restaurants. He's open seven restaurants three as head chef. The past few years, Alex has been focused on barbecue working at Mighty Quinn's, Hometown BBQ, and even going to Paris to help open Melt barbecue. You're going to hear about his career path, what it's like being a consultant, and what he's learned from opening a number of restaurants. I also got to talk to him about what he's working on now, and what's next. And if you want to make sure you catch every episode of the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast, go to ChefsWithoutRestaurants.org to sign up for our mailing list. The link can also be found in the show notes. As always, thanks so much for listening, and have a great week. Welcome to the show, Alex.Alex Smith:
Hey, buddy. Good to see you.Chris Spear:
How's things going?Alex Smith:
Things are going great man.You know, all things considered. I mean, I can't complain. We have our health.We live in New Jersey now. So we're closer to family than we were for the last two years in Miami. So yeah, I mean, we can't complain other than the fact that we can't see our family.Chris Spear:
How far is your family from you right now? Well, my wife's family is upstairs.Unknown:
That's really good. You live in a separate apartment building, in the same building, but a separate apartment, from her parents here in lovely New Jersey. And my family is in Montreal, mostly Montreal and Ottawa, and Montreal, we were there last summer, one of my very favorite places to go. Yes, I miss it very much great food down. And it's not far, you know, from here. You just got to make time to get there. It's about five and a half hour drive. Yeah, I've been twice. And we drove both times when I was living in the Philly area we drove and now even being down in Maryland. And it's beautiful, because you go up through the upstate New York and go through the Adirondacks. And, you know, we got like an Airbnb somewhere and spent the night and the kids loved it. So yeah, I, I miss traveling so much. That's one of the things I can't wait to get back to doing. Oh, man, you're telling me I was, you know, my wife and I are frequent travelers. And when I'm not obviously, you know, locked down with a restaurant gate, but, you know, looking at Google Photos recently, you know, and seeing out then how much we really did travel over the last, you know, 10 years since we've been together, and how much we miss it. You know, it's one of those things where, you know, as much as I miss dining out at restaurants and seeing friends and being able to sit in, in a restaurant and enjoy the experience, the traveling aspect and inspiration you get from it as a chef, is something that you take for granted, you know, in regular times, I certainly won't be doing that anymore. Yeah, I'm kind of hoping some aspects of like virtual things can continue. I was thinking, you know, right now, it would be the perfect opportunity, right? Like, gas is cheap. My kids are doing school from the computer. My wife's doing work 90% of the time, virtually, I can pretty much it's like why can't we just throw our computers and like drive down to Tennessee or something. But but then you get down there, like, everything's closed, you can't go where you want to go. But I, I would love that kind of flexibility in the future where my kids could maybe do a little, you know, take them out of school for a couple days. They could do it wherever and my wife could work from the road. I mean, I think that'd be awesome. I mean, that's an ideal scenario, right? My wife has been working remotely since we were in Paris, basically, which was about three years ago. And, you know, when she moved to the remote capacity with her with her work, you know, it opened up all these doors for us. And when I'm in between jobs, we can just go anywhere, really and you know, she can work on a on a patio while we're exploring, you know, awesome city or country. Yeah, that sounds really awesome to be able to do that. Yeah, it's good. I've been fortunate enough to you know, have time in between jobs. I think that's kind of part of the chef life if you don't get it You know, locked into a long term position, you're able to have these stretches of time where where you have, you know, you're able to travel and eat and explore and learn, you know, which I think is something that's super important in a chef's career. Let's take it back to the beginning a little bit. How did you get in the restaurant industry? You've got over 20 plus years now, how did you get started? Did you always have an interest in food? Did you go to culinary school, what was your path like? So I got into it primarily as an as a need to make as a need to make money back in the day as as a waiter almost 20 years ago, because the money was good. And you know, all my friends were in university. And I was living with them. And, you know, I found that the best way for me to have a steady ish decent income was to be there was to work in the restaurant industry as a waiter. So you leave, you know, your work, you get paid basically nothing an hour, but you get to leave with cash over the other day, and for any 20 year old. That's a great deal, especially 20 year olds living with college students. So I got into it that way. But the more I kind of worked in it at several different jobs over the years, I kind of grew to love it more and more. And I and I, I found that I had kind of a natural attraction to it. So I worked at many different in, you know, you said at the beginning of the show, in many different facets of the industry, looked at resorts and private restaurants, pubs, clubs, you name it. And when I started to work at this restaurant in Nova Scotia, when I was living out west, or sorry, out east, in Canada, it was the first restaurant that I worked at that kind of did, quote, unquote, finer dining. And, and when I saw what went into it, and I saw that it was something that was, you know, as you could say, achievable in many ways, like I saw it being put the dishes being put together by the brigade, and I saw the camaraderie, you know, between the kitchen staff, and this is, you know, 10 years ago, 12 years ago. So, there was still this kind of, and there still isn't many restaurants. But there's this kind of disconnect between the back and the front of house. And this is also one of the first restaurants where there's more of a connection between the back of the front of house, for whatever reason, I think they just we just got along better. It was a more intimate setting, there weren't many seats in the restaurant. And as Front of House, there was more expected of us in terms of learning the dishes, tasting the dishes, and really, you know, expanding our palates. So that was kind of my first dip into the finer dining aspect. And realizing, you know, maybe this is what I want to do. But I knew that if I ever wanted to open my own restaurant, I would have to learn everything there is to learn about cooking as well. So that's kind of what pushed me into the back of house. I just, I just knew, I think I knew almost everything I needed to almost everything I need to know about the front house, having worked in all on all positions throughout the course of about 10 years. And of course, over the years, I kind of grew more interested in how food was prepared and how it's made. And, and I guess my palate grew, too. So at that point, were you thinking about having a restaurant like, was there even that little spark that that you said, like, Hey, I think I'd maybe like to have my own spot someday? Yes, I think that's what drove me to eventually work in the back house is, is the fact that I definitely wanted to be in this industry. And I definitely wanted to have my own place one day, and I knew that I had to do it. I'd had to, I'd have to learn everything there is to know about cooking, if I wanted to be successful at it, because it's a very difficult industry, as you know, and you can't just go in knowing 50% of it. So that's what I did. And then when I when I started cooking, that's, that's when I knew that I if I was going to open a restaurant, I would be opening it from the back of the house. You know, I knew I wanted to cook. I knew I preferred to be in the back than in the front. After having, you know, cooked for so long. So So is that your first gig cooking? So my first gig cooking I would say my first real cooking job was when I moved to Manhattan in 2012. I worked at two jobs at the same time was kind of my first interest intro to cooking. So I was I was studying at the James Beard house when I first came here because I couldn't really work because I didn't have a residency. So I wasn't I was Canadian, right? So I couldn't work legally. So what I did was is I just started all the time, at the James Beard Foundation, and the James Beard house in Manhattan. And whilst simultaneously doing that, I was actually attending a professional cooking program at ice, the Institute of color education. So I had some training back in Montreal, but I was not in a place to graduate, let's say, I took it more as a as a fun kind of side job. When I decided that I wanted to do it seriously, I knew that even though I had a little bit of experience cooking it around to see I didn't have the foundations that I needed, or that I thought I needed to become really successful. So I, I used the as you could call education as a as a stepping stone for my to learn all of the things that I skipped, or I might have skipped working out at restaurants. So coming here, I just starting at the James your foundation, and then doing school and then finished when I finished school, I was able to because I married my wife, and was it was a resident, I was able to work legally. So I took on my first two jobs, which were working as a line cook at ABC cosina when it was just opening and and hadn't and then at the same time as a meat cutter at mighty Quinn's barbecue. So that those are my first two stints of real New York cooking real American cooking. I guess if you have to learn how to cook being in New York City, there's, you know, it's probably the best place in the world, definitely in the country to learn how to cook. Right. Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think that it's a it's a big change. It's a big city, you know, and a lot of people would say, you know, you have to go to this restaurant, that restaurant, you know, just get your Get your ass kicked and stuff. And that's not I was never, you know, I was someone who started cooking professionally, way late in life. In my opinion, I was 30 I'm 41 now, so this is about eight or nine years ago, I starting, like cooking in Manhattan, like eight or nine years ago, and that's late in life to get a professional career going. And it's, as you know, like, you know, I'm 44 and I graduate from culinary school in 98. Like when you say, I was running through my head and you say 2012 and like 2012 that was like eight years ago, you know, for the amount of experience you have and things you've done. I didn't realize you'd only been cooking that shorter period of time. Yeah, yeah. And I professionally, for sure. And but I think that's all it really matters, especially when you're working in this industry. So yeah, I mean, I got into it a little late. But when I got into it, I got into it hard. I have I had a ton of management management experience by my by me so it was easier for me to excel in certain positions as a cook too. Also, I had cooked a little bit previously so I wasn't going into a completely green. But definitely learn quickly spent spend a little bit more time at at ABC and then I and then I went full time into barbecue because that's that's where I kind of got bit. So you went all in on barbecue. All in. I had my first bite at smorgasburg 2012 I remember it and you know it was that mighty Quinn's and this is when smarter was eight vendors. Yeah, nobody was there. And I could just have a bite of brisket and it was great. I go right back in line for another sandwich once a week and I did this several times. And then I kind of developed a relationship with Hugh the owner of mighty Quinn's just because I had gone there every weekend to eat the brisket and for me this was something that was so new and so different. I'm French Canadian. So rich food is everything to me. You know I grew up on it, you know cheese, butter, fat beef. That's that's my jam. So barbecue is is definitely the type of food that it is is in my blood. So you know in those waters just thinking about these retailers it's hilarious like the the food memories that you get, but that this was very big for me. So when an opportunity came up to become a meat cutter and get like an entry level position that mighty Quinn's when it was getting quite popular, and they just opened their they're looking first location East Village. And they got reviewed by the times and Pete wells gave him two and a half stars and you know for a restaurant that had you know, serving food on paper plates. That was unheard of So, at the time, so needless to say, we were busy, it was a really great introduction for me to learn, you know, real barbecue, you know, cooking on a real smoker with real wood, no, no electric or gas assist, and learning in a volume setting. So I, which I think is always the best place to learn. So I learned really quickly. And you know, the rest is history. Yeah, you were there. When I met you. I think I'm, you know, I've got like a box of business cards. I think I probably still have your card with mighty Quinn's on it from when we met like way back in the day. Yes. Yeah. I think definitely was because that was the first year that I went to the Brooklyn ICC. Yeah. So you know, the rest is history. I've been in BBQ now, since then, almost primarily, with the occasion of with, with the exception of I worked at Hudson table, which is a culinary event space slash recreational cooking school. in Hoboken. As a as one of the chef instructors, and I did some chef's tables there, you did Mexican stuff there didn't you or a lot of like, I remember saying really cool stuff you're working on. I definitely did a lot of Mexican stuff I am so, so crazy about all things. Or all types of Mexican cuisine. I spent a lot of time in Mexico wahaca primarily, but over the years, and I am so overly fascinated by the culture, the food, I just love it there. And so for me, present table was a place to kind of be able to step outside of the barbecue zone and be able to be really creative and cook the food that I was really interested in cooking and, and teach it to. So I was able to write classes and teach recipes and stuff food that I picked up along the way, which is always a great experience I loved I love to teach. And I love to spread, you know, the gospel of everything that I learned. I'm very big, big proponent of that. So over the years that this was something I've always done and always really gravitated towards. Now, is that something you've been doing during COVID? Have you gone to like online classes? Or is this something you're going to be doing? Yes. So the idea is, is right now I really like to do more of that. And actually funny that you mentioned that because we I'm working with a table right now trying to put together like a pitmaster slash barbecue masterclass, which would be a virtual demonstration style masterclass, where I could literally unload all my knowledge to anyone that would want to learn it virtually, which is difficult. But I think that the fundamentals and the tricks and, you know, some key many of the key aspects of it can be taught so even virtually after spending as much time in it. So it's something we I want to try to see if we can sell some seats to that. And that's something we're going to hopefully launch in the next week or two very intimate, we're going to be like six person classes. Seven and a half hours, eight hour classes, I'm not sure the length but three sets of classes two and a half hours each or so. And go really in depth, you know, from anatomy, to, you know, butchering to, you know, wood selection, everything from that to Brian's to rubs to how to use a grill as a smoker how to use a trigger properly. Of which I have several in my backyard now. So if you're ever looking to get rid of one, I could use one. Okay, great. I'll trigger if your listing will take two triggers, please. Yeah, so that's kind of the gradual step right now, because it's, it's, it's the COVID time. So working in a restaurant isn't feasible. For me right now, although even, you know, all the restaurants are, are very limited capacity as it is. So there's not many open positions. But I'm not really looking for position right now. I think the next step for me is to finally, you know, put my foot forward and work on my own concept, which is something I plan on doing over the next couple of years. And hopefully you open it in this area, you know, the New Jersey, New York State area. And that's the main focus with these side jobs of the barbecue and the barbecue virtual classes. And then, so does that mean it's going to be a barbecue place? Ah, well, there's going to be woodfired elements to it. I love barbecue, and I'll never, ever fall out of love with it and cooking it. But I think I think what I've learned over the years is that the type of food that I prefer to cook is is different food that I grew up eating. But who's to say that I can't combine the two and create like a truly unique experience? So that's, that's kind of where I'm going with the concept that I want to open. So that but that's a lot of money for that. So we'll see a lot of money and the world to change a lot between. Yeah, I need vaccines, tons of vaccines, tons of money. And then we're good. So you did a lot of opening of places like, I can't believe your job took you to Paris. How crazy was that? Going to Paris to open a barbecue restaurant? Yeah, that was absolutely insane. Funny story I working at mighty Quinn's I met these two cool guys. Sean Paul, of course, super friendships. And they were just touring around the US eating barbecue. And they were just absolutely fascinated and enamored with All Things Barbecue. And they said that said the next time we talk, we're going to be opening up the place in Paris, you should come and open it. And I said, Wow, that sounds really, really cool. This was very early in my career. So I didn't even have a clue how that would work. So fast forward a couple years later, and they're actually in the process of getting this place open. The timing, for me didn't work out for this first location because I was in between another contract and about to start at surf. So I couldn't jump on to open their first location of melt. It's called melt the barbecue place in Paris. I did not name it. But that's what they've named, it sounds like a grilled cheese place. That's or an ice cream sandwich shop. And I've told them that they still love the name and it flies there. People love it, the French the French eat it up, so good for them. And so the first place location they did they opened didn't work out, they ended up bringing a pet guy from Texas who actually worked at pecan Lodge, which is a very good place to Dallas. So he got that first started for them. And then the opportunity came for a second location to come in. And so I had I told him, I could come and consult and I could come in for a couple months and help them open it. So they're like, yeah, we want you however we could have you. So this is in 2018. End of 1718. Yeah. They, they brought me out in December. And we, you know, in the matter of about a week and a half, we ended up getting the restaurant from like, a there's nothing in there, no tables or chairs. We got to the point where we could feed the restaurant was completed. And we could we fed 450 people, I had never used the smoker until the night before feeding 450 people. So you know, we crossed our fingers, we packed our sleeping bags right next to it, and we hope for the best. And luckily, the product came out amazing on the first cook, which I can say is very rare. And the event went off well. And you know, they've been wildly successful since since we'd open that place is an incredible experience. I think the menu there is fantastic. Is there any barbecue culture in Paris? I mean, how many how many competitors they have for barbecue out there. So when we opened, there were there was one or there was two other barbecue quote unquote concepts there that were fairly busy. Not including the or the original melt location, which was busy as well. So not much competition. But it's you know, France is a very meat centric culture. So they enjoy their their proteins. Not in the quantities that Americans enjoy them. You know, they're not ordering a pound of brisket and a pound of ribs at a time. But they are coming often. So it's it was successful. It is can it continues to be successful. 40 right now they're in lockdown mode. So a lot of the restaurants are struggling there but their government is helping them unlike the government here. As is the case in most, you know, most countries like Canada, the government's helping out quite a bit as well. But all that to say that it was absolute incredible experience. You know, I was I'm cooking barbecue one day in France. On my way to work. I'm grabbing a course like a croissant and it's amazing. My home I grabbed I gets to eat with my wife. We goto dinner at 9:
30pm and that's when kind of dinner starts there. And then on the weekend I drove I took a train that goes 200 miles an hour to go sleep to go eat at Paul Bo coos for the night and then jump on the train back you know it's the life I mean, that's that's the dream, right? It's literally a surreal experience. And I was very, very lucky and happy to have it. So I hope I hope to be invited back for the next one. So do you like the process of consulting and opening places and doing that, as opposed to just being like a line cook or an executive chef at a regular restaurant, I think what I've learned about myself over the years is that I do enjoy the push, you know, to get us a place open writing the recipes, recipe testing, getting them ready, training the staff from nothing, design aspects of the kitchen, figuring it out how it's going to flow, and then opening and dealing with the clusterfuck, of proportion of like, massive proportions, that that comes with an opening, right? Everything breaks down and half the staff calls in sick. I think that's the, that's something I've learned over the years is what really drives me has driven me in the past. And then gradually bringing the restaurant to, you know, success, and then being able to train someone up and put them in charge. And to continue the success. I think it's not, it's never something that I that I specifically go for. If it's, if it's an opportunity to consult, and it's quick, like the one in Paris, I would I would have done it, I probably would have stayed there a little bit longer. But you know, talking about it out loud. And now that you mentioned it, I think it is something that I that I kind of gravitate towards. Because it's exciting, you know, from start to finish something I really enjoy it. I also haven't really opened anything for myself. So I think that I think that when it gets to that when I get to the point where I can open a restaurant, that's my own, you know, and I can put my name on it and I can show I can control the menu, I can control everything else. in ways that I haven't been able to before. I think that that's going to be the the ultimate experience for me, because that's something that I really haven't had yet. And Cindy, I look forward to one day having so working for so many people, what are some of the best practices you've seen? Like you've been through a lot of kitchens? Do you see any consistent things that you say, Oh, yeah, this is what the people at the top of their game are all doing? What what are some of those things? You know, the one thing that I think is the responsibility of, of a chef and of people in our position is, is to operate, the cleanest, most organized and safest environment, you know, in so many ways that work can be taken. But I really mean it. Because you know, I've been fortunate enough to not have to work for people that don't, they don't encourage with positive reinforcement, it's kind of, you know, I don't really need to work for people that that do that. I've been lucky enough that over the years, the jobs that I've taken, I haven't really come into contact with people that do that. But I could tell you, I wouldn't do it, I wouldn't, I wouldn't waste my time. Because that's not the kind of person I am. You know, and teaching and encouraging staff and people with that positive, you know, nurturing and, you know, excited and motive in that motivated, excited way, I think is the only way to do it. And it's something that I've taken on. Because it's who I am, I'm not a negative person, I show up to work every day with a smile. I can tell you, my cooks almost laugh at me to the fact that I've never gotten angry at them or yelled at them. Because it's something that's kind of rare still. in this industry. It's changing. I know a lot of people coming up that, you know, are are doing it, I think the right way. But I think that if there's anything that it's it's something that I've taken to heart, because it's something it's so important, and I think positive environments and comfortable environments for staff, you know, equally equate to good, great food. It's really as simple as that. And ways of life. It's such a hard industry. And people work so so many hours, and they don't really have anything else. But their job when their line cooks or grill cooks or, you know, dish or prep books, a lot of them. So I think that's something I want to strive for when I was doing my own places that that that balance of work, and work in home life. It's so important. Yeah, you see these people way more than your own family. I mean, looking back at the last job I was at and all the jobs where I wasn't self employed like you're with these people, night and day and you know more about them, then you know, like, then anyone else in the world? So like, why would you not want it to be a positive environment? But I do think not justifying at all. But I think it's different when you're the owner. And it's your money, right? Like, it's a little easier if you're just the executive chef getting a paycheck, to kind of walk away as opposed to like, this is my full reputation on the line. This is my life savings. Like I can see how you can go down that road. But that's not how I want to run my kitchen, either. You know, yeah. It's a it's a reason I don't want to have my own place, like being feeling like I'm tied to that all the time that I can't disconnect at all. Yeah, yeah. I mean, that's, that's a reality. And that's something that my wife voices or her worries about as well, is that once we do get her on there, I do get my own kitchen, will I be able to walk away from it? And will I be able to sleep at night, knowing that I'm not there all the time? I think it goes back to, you know, how you are and how you manage how you lead? There's so much to be said about that. And I think that if you put yourself in the right position, and treat people the way that you want to be treated, I think that it's going to be difficult. I mean, every every job is difficult, um, train your people and put them in place to succeed. And, you know, I mean, that's, that's the goal. Right? And I think it's I think it's completely doable. You know, why? Why have people work more than five days a week? You know, why? Why are we pushing people to have, you know, 6070 hour weeks? Why are we just hiring more people, you know, every other countries tends to have a better work life, or starting towards a better work life balance. And, you know, when I, when I attended the Mad conference, in 2017, I was talking to Ben sharee, from Attica, and he, he has, at the time, he had not a single staff member working more than four days a week, and not a single staff member working more than 48 hours a week. So they were on at a max 12 hours a day, four days a week, three days off consecutive. And if cooks didn't, if cooks felt like they needed to come in to to get prep done for their station, he send them off. I'm very strict. And he found a balance there. It seemed to be working really well for him. I saw him 2019 he was at the Philly chef conference. He came and he was on a panel with Matt Orlando. And I think Katie button, and they were talking about like, kitchen environment. And I just remember hearing that thinking, wow, could we all adopt that here in the US? Yeah, yes. It's crazy. And why not? I think that the problem is, is that it's just you have to kind of rework the system of your restaurant and how it how your p&l works, right? Well, it's not just the restaurant business, it's the whole, like, workaholic culture of us here in the States, because it seems like every industry, if you're at the, you know, top of your game, all the all the places are really successful, they all seem to operate the same way like nobody's ever off, everybody's always, you know, emailing work things on their downtime, and they just can't disconnect. We're not one of those countries as four weeks of paid vacation, it just isn't something we're used to. Yeah, right. And so there's a big, it's, it's going to be a challenge, but it's something that I, that I that I've written into my business plan, you know, for my for my restaurant is that staff will be on five days on two days off consecutive always, there'll be paid very fairly, I'll take a hit in the in the profit end, I'm not in it to make money, I want to live a lot, my wife and I to have a good life, I'm not in it to be rich, I don't want to open seven restaurants, I don't want to franchise. I want to open one great restaurant, and I want to work there till I can't work anymore. And I want the people that come through my restaurant and I say come through my restaurant cuz I don't expect my chefs to stay. I expect them to work for a little while, learn as much as they can and leave and then I want to support them in their next venture. Just like I would expect from and I've usually had from all the people that have that have employed me. So I've been lucky in that aspect. So that's what that's what I want. And I don't think it's impossible to attain. I just think that, you know, as a business owner, you have to take a step back and, and take care of the people that take care of you. So So looking back on your career, would you have done it differently in any different order? Do you feel like you should have gotten an education in a different area or did you miss any opportunities or are you kind of happy with how everything worked out? It's a really good question. I, I can't say that I can't say I could have done it any differently or would have done differently because I'm happy with how everything turned out. And really happy with the relationships, relationships I've made. I'm happy with the people I've worked for the path that happy with the people I've met that worked for me along the way. And the experiences, so I guess advice for people out there looking to get into similar work. Any suggestions on maybe how to approach it and and get in there to get in the industry? It's a good question two. I think that a lot of people try hard. And put a lot of pressure on themselves to figure out what food they want to do. And some people just take. And I think it's normal to take a very long time to decide what it is that you want to cook, and to fight figure out what it is that that pushes you and to become better. You know. I think that cooking isn't cooking professionally is not for everybody. It's thankless. It's difficult work. But it's extraordinarily rewarding. If you find if you like where you're working. And I think that with as many restaurants that you have these days, I think finding a place where you like to work is not going to be too difficult. And if you don't like where you're working leave, because you're not doing anybody good. Any good. If you're if you don't like your station, or the people you work with, there's plenty of restaurants out there. So, you know, my best advice would be to just keep keep moving until you find a place that you like, where the people treat you. Well, I think that's so one of the great things about the internet and social media, especially as you get like a behind the scenes look at how places are operating. Like when I think about starting out in the food industry when I was like a teenager. And even right out of college, we you know, barely even had the internet. But now it's like you can go to their Instagram pages, you can not only see their dishes, but behind the scenes like what are people saying about them? How are they interacting with customers, every place is getting reviewed these days, you can really kind of get the picture of a place before you even step in the door. You kind of know the reputation of the chef, you kind of can get a vibe on whether the cooks like it there or not. I think it's really interesting as opposed to going into someplace completely blind. I completely agree. That's a really good point. And it is a very different situation. And it's has become pretty hilarious over the last several years. How interactive restaurants are with the public over me over social media, you know, sometimes they're sometimes to their detriment. Sometimes, sometimes it is free promotion. So there's a lot to be said for that industry where every penny counts, right? Yeah, for sure. So what are some of your favorite culinary tools and resources or business tools and resources? I always like to ask people like what are you into what are books, websites, video tutorials, anything? I mean, hands down the number one drive and motivator for me in my early career and continues to be his ideas and food blog is the ideas and food blog, which I know you're familiar with. I made I made two of their recipes. This past week I made their adult pumpkin pie. And I made their chocolate loaf cake. So I'm always and that look, I went back and looked it was from 2005. And for people who just consistently blog like they were blogging 15 years ago. That's like unheard of. Yeah. And they they were the pioneers and they were the ones literally posting all of their ideas in food. I mean, he couldn't have had a better name for the book. And not only they are incredibly nice people I've gotten to know Alex a little bit over the years. who by the way also makes literally the best donuts on the planet. no comparison. They opened a shop 45 minutes from my house now so we have one down little lucky. I'm glad I don't have to schlep up to like Pennsylvania anymore to get them so I don't get down there as often as I want. But yeah, I've been in there and Alex is occasionally in there. He was in there the past two times I was in. Yes. And he lucky. He's about an hour and 15 for me and that's just enough for me to be like oh, I don't know if like and he sells out like there's no doughnuts after 9am So, you know get there early or don't get there at all and good for him for that. You know he doesn't care anything over. It's all sold. I don't know if you even know this. The name Chefs Without Restaurants comes from a dinner he was at that he was a part of Did you know this? Have you ever even had no idea Yeah, so, I mean, so they, they inspired a lot of both my personal chef business, you know, the whole idea that you could be a chef, you can do really creative things. Like they don't have a restaurant. They've worked in restaurants. But it's been like 20 years since they've worked in restaurants and the idea of like, pop up dinners and consulting and doing these collaborative things. But a few years ago, they decided they wanted to do this collab dinner with all these people who were in between gigs. So it was john and Karen shields, they had closed down house. They were Look, they were looking to open a place. They weren't quite there yet. So they came up, and they had Johnny Sparrow with them because he had been working with them. Alex was there and then they had Curtis Duffy, because he hadn't opened grace yet. So you know, these were all people who were like, they were just itching to get back in the kitchen and do a thing. And they did it at elements in Princeton, New Jersey. So they just must have been a good dinner. It was an amazing dinner. And I don't know I think Doc scons coined the term Chefs Without Restaurants. So he did two blog posts, and they're still on his website. And he said like Chefs Without Restaurants, the prelude, it was like photos of cocktail hour and all this stuff there. And then it was Chefs Without Restaurants that dinner. So it was never this like official thing. And I love the name. And I thought it was so cool. And it just kind of encapsulated what I love that all these chefs didn't have to necessarily have a restaurant. And I love the idea of like chefs coming together doing a collaborative thing. And I held on to it, and I just sat on that name for years. I'm like seven years went by, and like it wasn't a website. It wasn't an anything. I'm like, Well fuck it. I'm gonna take this. And I just like I built the websites chef was Chefs Without restaurants.com and.org. And I'm like, Yeah, why not? And it started as like a joke thing. And now we have 1000s of members across all platforms. And I actually registered the trademark so I amazing goodly I legally own the name. And, and everyone's been really supportive. Like I post that about it on on social media. And I think it got reposted by like john shields, and john and Alex and all them so super supportive that I just kind of like swipe the name. So yeah, I mean, it's a fantastic name. Yeah, it isn't food. I mean, just totally amazing. And this might sound crazy. I have I haven't done it. I haven't stayed up to date in like a year, but I literally printed out every single recipe from their website. Like I stayed on top of it a while. Yeah, so I have like five volumes of like three ring binders of every knot that's gonna be worth something, not the ideas, but just if it was a literal recipe, I printed it out and have it so like if their website ever crashed. I've got that all back. fix it. I wonder if Aleksey isn't even has it? Yeah, I don't know. I don't even know if he he knows that I have that. But I printed that out and kept that. So it's like cuz it's like a cookbook, right? I mean, it's the best cookbook for sure. Going back to all those ideas, for sure. They do some crazy, crazy stuff. It's incredibly inspiring. And it's something that got me completely into cooking and i into the geek side of it too. And, you know, I've always I've always, I'm always trying new things, you know, I'm always messing around. That's, I think it's something is so important as a chef is just to not stop, you know, just to keep, keep trying things keep pushing, keep trying to bake trying to, you know, things that put us out of your comfort zone. But it's crazy. As crazy as their ideas are. They have a lot of really easy basic recipes. One of my favorites that I do all the time for maximum flavor is there salmon, and it's made smoked maple, miso salmon, and it literally is just white miso paste, maple syrup, sherry vinegar, smoked paprika, and cayenne. And you just make it as a marinade and throw your salmon in there and let it sit for like three hours and then you boil it for 10 minutes and then shut off the heat and let it carry over cook in the oven. And it's amazing. And I I serve it to customers all the time. People love it. I can just throw it in and marinate in a ziplock bag before I go and then head on over to their house and it's ready to roll. Amazing and things like brining seafood. I again tell people all the time they do 5% sailing Brian for seafood for 10 minutes. I do it every time I do Scott, you know it prevents the albumin from coming out of salmon. It makes your scallops a little firmer, it will pull out any you know, sand or grit but just like take your seafood and throw it in a 5% solution for 10 minutes. And that's something I picked up like eight years ago from their website. Yeah, yeah, it's absolutely awesome. I mean, that's hands down, I would say one of the best resources for me. And that has been over the years. I mean, the rest is just cookbooks and and stuff like that. And I just like to tinker a lot. So you know, any idea I have already done I just try to make it also rich. Rich, she and Jeremy Yeah, Jerry Minsky this the Koji cookbooks fantastic. I'm trying to get those guys on the show. They've become so popular like I keep reaching out to them because I took a workshop with rich like four years ago. So rich and I go back to early Twitter like before he even got in the kkog Like he and I were big cooking issues fans and like we used to talk almost daily via Twitter. And so I was there from the beginning, actually, he was the first guest post on my perfect little bites website. Like I never wanted to have anyone guest blog, but he was starting to do the Koji stuff. And he made like a Parmesan cheese type thing out of Koji. I remember that. And I, and he wanted and I was like, can you so he exclusively put it on my website? And so weird people don't read. So people almost weekly, email me and say, can you talk to me about this recipe? I'm like, Did you read it's like, it's a guest post. Like I don't, I am not the Koji Jedi, you are looking like rich will talk to you via the internet. He's got a book. But I left it on there. And I get more hits on that one post on my website than almost anything I've done in a decade. I can imagine. Yeah, so I was happy. I was there when he started all that. And then I did at Star chefs. Jeremy did a workshop probably three years ago, and starships hired me to write a bunch of editorial. So that was one of the ones I got to do a wrap up about. So actually, one of my Chefs Without Restaurants podcast episodes is just the audio from that, like I pulled out a mic and just recorded the workshop. And one day, I reached out to him this past year and is like, Do you care if I like tidy up the audio and release it? And he's like, sure. And again, it's like my second most listen to maybe my first most listened to podcast episode. So people are clouding people are crazy for the Koji and me so stuff. That's awesome. Yeah, I mean, it's kind of the thing right now. And there's very little literature on it, at least on this side of the world. So there has been, you know, obviously, the Noma fermentation book has a little bit on it as a good amount on it. But other than that, there's not much on it. So it's, it's it's very cool ingredient. fun to play with, that's for sure. So I know it's probably like picking a favorite kid. But do you have a preference or a favorite barbecue like either a cut of meat or a style of preparation? I mean, briskets always been, you know, briskets the hardest to cook perfectly. It's two muscles that are completely different. They cook differently based on when the cows came to slaughter based on when they were feeding. You know, all times of year they cook differently, all humidities, they cook differently. It's the most temperamental muscle that barbeque cooks can cook, and I think it's by far the most difficult to cook very well. That's why I like it. You can fake you can fake a pork shoulder. I've always said like, I can even roast pork shoulder in my oven with a good job on it and then shred it and do some sauce and like you wouldn't know. So I picked my barbecue places by the quality of their brisket for sure. As you should and it's fair. It's like choosing a pizza place to buy. They're playing pizza. I think that's what I do. Anyways. All I want to taste is the fair, that Margarita show me a margarita. If it's good. I'll move on. Yeah, my forte, my former co host of this podcast has a pizza food truck. And we've talked about that a lot. And when we've traveled together, we've that's his thing. So I've eaten some pizza with him and he always goes in and he'll get like one of the really interesting funky ones, but we have to get like a plain cheese just to kind of baseline judge. Yeah, that and french fries is one of the things I if I go to a restaurant, there's fries in the menu I'm ordering them. Period. Doesn't matter where doesn't matter how I have to try them. I have to try fries. I just made some french fries, like right before this podcast. So I don't know if you'd seen my thing about the french fry competition. McCain did this. They have their shirt, crispy waffle fries. And they said like we'll send you free fries for this recipe contest. So I entered they sent me to my home, a 27 pound case of french fries, frozen frozen frozen waffle fries, they came on dry ice. So they wanted to see recipes. So I tinkered with a bunch of things. But what I came up with is I did a smoked cheddar, Old Bay kaiso with scrapple pickled jalapenos, maple syrup, and catch Oh boy, I did it. So later so like an hour and a half ago like right before the show I did my photo shoot like I broke everything out and did it in the official entry so you just have to post on Instagram and tag them and it's only open to 50 people so I have a one and 50 get a lifetime supply of the cane local gyms you get 20 cases and fries. So I'm gonna have to find a friend with some freezer space. Maybe my church here in town has a commercial kitchen so you wouldn't like that case you would like $1,000 in chef swag. I think chefs role sponsors that are co sponsors. That's cool, but you also get like 20 cases so if I went 20 cases of fries, I don't know like maybe I'll do like a fry pop up like my church has a commercial kitchen. We'll do like a fried pop up and and do something like that and do it for fundraiser. Yeah. So I just think I was tinkering with fries. I was awesome. I'm a big french fry guy. I am too as I know how hard it is to make good fries. It's like, it's taken a lot of my time and in my life, standing in front of a fryer to achieve the perfect french fry, and I'm still on trying to find it so that I love fries. So any words of wisdom or parting words as we get out of here today? Just Just be nice. You know, we have an opportunity, as Jeff said, as industry and as leaders is to be to bring, you know, to bring the industry into the new into into this millennium, like, into a different I don't know, into a more positive frame of mind, be nice to everybody, you know, lead in a positive way. You get more out of everybody have a better work environment. And you're gonna have a better way of life. Just be happy. That's all. Yeah, definitely. Words To Live By, especially in 2020. Life has been hard enough with everything else going on. Yeah. It's been a rough one. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. I really appreciate having you. That thank you so much for having me, Chris. It's great to see you too. Yeah, definitely. Let's not wait three years before we talk again. I know. Well, hopefully next year starshot will be back on and we can all get up there. I look forward to traveling so I'll be up that way as soon as I can. Good man. Well, let me know when you do come. I will. Thanks for all of our listeners. This has been the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast. As always, you can find us at Chefs Without restaurants.com and org and on all social media platforms. Thanks so much and have a great day.
Here are some great episodes to start with.