Want to be a top chef? Not just any chef, mind, but the best of the best. Here’s some tips for you. Pack your ego away. There’s no place for it in a successful kitchen. Be humble.
Humility allows you to learn faster because a humble chef is never satisfied, even when they win awards and accolades and are highly successful. The West Australian Good Food Guide Chef Of The Year for 2018 is Jed Gerrard. These are some of his simple personal rules which are he hallmarks of a successful chef.
Gerrard might be quietly spoken and measured beyond his years, but don’t mistake his laid back reticence for easy going. Easy going he is not. The tall, lumbering Chef Of The Year is singularly focused on food and the culinary arts and, as cliche as it sounds, the pursuit of excellence.
“You have to be dedicated… dedicated to your trade and your career,” Gerrard said. “And you have to be prepared to sacrifice a lot, to put your career before friends and social life and to be consumed by what you do.”
If that sounds like a short cut to a monastic life devoid of anything but the pursuit of professional cookery, you might be surprised by Gerrard’s regard for “passion.”
“You need passion, you need to keep evolving, to keep learning and reading and wanting to get better all the time. You can’t rest on your laurels.”
Gerrard’s personal story is a text book example of how passion, dedication, hard work and rectitude can combine to create brilliance. “I was terrible at school. I paid no attention. I didn’t even want to be there. Then as soon as I found something I was passionate about and good at, I started excelling. I was top of my class at cooking college. I’d found my passion.”
“From early on in my career, I knew I wanted to be at the top of my game and to do that I had to go and work for chefs at the top of their game. That’s how I ended up work for Tetsuya (Wakuda) in Sydney and then on to work with Tony Bilson at Bilsons (Sydney), when it had three hats (the top score for restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne).
I was a sous chef at Bilsons, but I took a huge pay cut and went backwards to a commi chef job, so I could work in a two Michelin starred restaurant in Normandy (France). It was only after those experiences that I thought I had the beginnings of the skills I needed to really succeed.”
“An ambitious chef will never get there if his ego gets in the way. You have to remember that no matter how many awards and trophies you get at some point in your career, there will always be the next generation of chefs who will surpass you. Remembering that keeps your feet on the ground,”
Gerrard says. “I don’t have any time for egos in the kitchen. If I interview a chef and he has an ego, he’ll never get into my brigade. I have no time for that.”
“We’re here for the guests. Nothing else matters.”