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Feeding the Future

Advice on Culinary Careers from TV Personality Alex Guarnaschelli

Photo: Courtesy of Alex Guarnaschelli

The executive chef at New York’s Butter, cookbook author and TV personality offers tips and insights for aspiring foodies.

Did you always want to be a chef, or did you consider any other culinary careers?

I always knew that I wanted to be a chef. I never even took a stab at being anything else. And I’m not sorry.

You studied at the La Varenne Culinary School in Burgundy. How important was receiving a culinary education?

I think culinary school in some form or another is a great base to becoming a good cook and, ideally, a great chef. Living in another country and speaking another language also broadened my thinking and my horizons.

What special secrets about French cooking did you learn?

I learned the power of cream and butter used in the right place. Once I tasted European butter and European cream and dairy, I realized what an unbelievable richness and texture it can offer. It’s not just the taste but a lot of other things too. For example, have you ever folded some loosely whipped cream into your deviled egg mix to lighten it up? Nirvana.

What advice would you give someone hoping to start a career in the culinary arts?

Learning how to cook and becoming a chef, working for a magazine, food styling, writing books – the process can be slow and painstaking. It’s really important to be patient with yourself when figuring out what approach you want to take, what cuisine speaks to you and knowing what skills you really want to hone. Take the process as calmly as you can and enjoy cooking and eating and growing along the way.

For professional chefs – or amateurs at home – what is your top tip for an organized kitchen?

I think every chef under the sun knows the value of a great list. Make a list of utensils you need. Make a list of dishes that service a menu. Make a shopping list. Then hang all your lists on a clear, plain wall and stare at them as you chop. It really helps.

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