Advice from "Letters to an Unborn Chef"

The Charleston Wine + Food Festival starts Wednesday, March 2, 2016. In honor of this exciting event, we talked to a few chefs participating in the festival this year and asked each of them what they might say in their letter to an unborn chef. This is a chef who will be born long after we’re gone. A chef who will be presented with challenges both old and new. A chef who will look to the past for guidance in shaping the future. Here’s what we learned from these chefs.

Blake-Hartwick-1-607x1024Blake Hartwick 

Chef, Bonterra

Charlotte, North Carolina

“Take a long, hard look in the mirror and say ‘this is what I want to do. I have a passion for cooking and for being creative, and I’m good with people.’ Then I think you’re going to have a good future.”

In his message to future chefs, Hartwick stresses the idea that your desire to work in the food world has to come naturally. You can’t force it. Like many paths in life, being a chef comes with some serious challenges, so future chefs should really make sure the passion is there. And when you finally make it, don't be entitled.

Listen to the full interview here.


nico_romoNico Romo

Culinary Executive Director, Patrick Properties and Fish Restaurant

Charleston, South Carolina

“Take it a step at a time. Cooking is not as easy as everybody thinks, and taking a step, learning through the best chefs you can as possible and put the time in.”

According to Romo, the key to learning is repetition. Spend at least a year or two at every restaurant you work in because learning takes time. His practical tip for any new chef: start with fine dining. It’s the hardest kitchen, and therefore the best school. You should have high standards for everything you use and produce and everyone you work with. Get used to wearing a lot of hats! As a chef, you'll have many different responsibilities.

Listen to the full interview here.


12250093_1016115515098540_1316342110906611275_nNick Anderson

Chef de Cuisine, Rathbun’s Restaurant

Atlanta, Georgia

“You’re only as good as you’re last plate so make sure that your first plates at you know 4:30, 5:30, whatever time you start service are as quality as the end.”

Anderson's advice to the unborn chef is all about community. He says keep it local. If you support your community, your community will support. Always take the time to “make your own” because it’ll always be better than what you can buy, and it's the only way to guarantee quality. Oh, and taste your line!

Listen to the full interview here.



Daniel Doyle

Executive Chef, Poogan's Porch

Charleston, South Carolina

“The best part of the job is you’re constantly creating everyday, you know? You’re working to do something that you’ve never seen done.”

Just like Chef Hartwick, Doyle wants the future chef to know that it's not a job that can be done without a whole lot of passion. It’s hard work and long hours, so you need to be sure it's what you want to do. Be a team player and be open to new ideas because you can learn something from every person with whom you're working. Know and trust your suppliers!

Listen to the full interview here.


frank_leeFrank Lee

Chef, Slightly North of Broad

Charleston, South Carolina

“One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to find a really great chef and work with him. Find a mentor.”

Lee says the unborn chef should master basic techniques before developing their own style. Working for several different chefs is helpful so you can learn several different methods and see different styles. Learn your technique, work really hard at it, and then you can find your voice. That’s when people will notice you have something to say.

Listen to the full interview here.


Woody-Back-1-607x1024Woody Back

Chef de Cuisine, Table & Main

Roswell, Georgia

“Do a lot of cooking for yourself and see what’s good for you and what you enjoy and stuff like that. That’s what’s going to develop your palate.”

According to Chef Back, the unborn chef should make an effort to keep in touch with old techniques and shouldn't spend too much time trying to keep up with trends. In the beginning of a career, you need to keep your head down and learn humility. Make sure you're doing it for the love, not the fame.

Listen to the full interview here.



Paul Fehribach

Chef and owner, Big Jones Restaurant

Chicago, Illinois

“If you’re going to last in the business, the most important thing is being able to balance your life with your work.”

Chef Fehribach offers a unique perspective for the unborn chef. He says, above all else, balance is the key the success. Of course you have to be willing and able to demonstrate total dedication to your craft, chef, and business, but you also have to find balance in your life. Chefs also need to be aware of the ecological impact of their work, and they should be willing to make compromises in order to do what’s best for our world.

Listen to the full interview here.


Charleston Wine + Food is a non-profit organization that celebrates the renowned food culture of Charleston, SC during a five-day event the first weekend of every March. With a local food culture rich in tradition, James Beard Award-winning chefs, and the best city to visit in the world (according to Condé Nast Traveler’s 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards), the festival infuses home-grown flavor with top chefs, winemakers, authors, storytellers and food enthusiasts.

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