At the annual benefit for the Careers through Culinary Arts Program — a nonprofit that works with underprivileged high school students to get them ready for college and careers in the restaurant world — a number of distinguished chefs in attendance gave us their best words of wisdom for the next generation of kitchen superstars. Read on for their cooking counsel.



“Just make sure you want to do it, because it’s definitely a difficult profession. Ten years ago there wasn’t ‘Top Chef’ and all that — it’s out there a lot more, it’s more of this glamorous thing. Your first five years, you’re gonna be a grunt peeling potatoes and onions — and it’s not as glamorous as you see. It’s something that you really have to love if you’re gonna get into the field.”

—Joseph Fortunato, Extra Virgin

 

“Find yourself a job while you’re going to school, and work in the environment. Or, before you go to

school, get a job in the food industry — even if you have to be a runner — and see what it’s all

about. It’s expensive to go to school, and it’s a commitment.”

— Sarabeth Levine, Sarabeth’s

 

“Continue to learn and continue to look at those who are next to you and around you for any new and different ways to do things. There is always more than one way to crack an egg. Never think that what you know is the end-all, be-all of anything.”

— Clifford Crooks, BLT Steak

 

“Pick a good restaurant, pick a mentor, work really hard. Start at the bottom. That’s just my opinion — and it worked for me and most of the people I know.”

— Matt Hoyle, Nobu Fifty Seven

 

“Learn your fundamentals. That’s why an organization like C-CAP is so important — because these kids are given the fundamentals. From there, you could expand. Your expertise gives you the ability to really blossom.”

— Michael McCarty, Michael’s

“Three words: quality, quality, quality. After that, you have to have a lot of strength and love for your friends in the kitchen. You can have the best recipe, but if you don’t have this recipe, you cannot succeed.”

— Maria Loi, Loi

“Work hard and be really passionate. I think you should always aspire high and try to do your best. And if you’re passionate and you work with a chef or sous chef that really cares about you, it can never be wrong. Today we have such a diverse restaurant scene — it’s absolutely an amazing time to be a young, up-and-coming cook. This is the one field that you’re always gonna be employed [in].”

— Marcus Samuelsson, Red Rooster Harlem