Graduation season. It’s the time of year when many chapters are closing and so many more are opening. So many dreams are just starting to blossom! At First Watch, we are thankful to YOU for allowing us to be part of your celebrations.
I remember all of my graduations very well: kindergarten, high school, culinary school – I was so happy to be done, but I was also both terrified and excited about what was coming next. I’ve been in the restaurant industry since I was 14 years old, so I knew that I wanted to go to culinary school from Day 1. As they say, this industry chose me and not the other way around. I’ve always loved the comradery in the kitchen, the attitude, the free spirits, the non-stop grind of service day in, day out. It calllleeed me…. Sorry, little Moana reference there (can you tell I have a little girl?).
My time at Johnson & Wales University was life-changing. I remember being so happy surrounded by likeminded kids, so happy to be learning things I knew would help me in my life-long journey to be a great chef. But it’s important to impress upon young chefs the importance of patience in our industry. I have gone back and spoken to students in both high school and culinary school and often explain the need for them to enjoy the moment. Soak it all in! At that stage, it’s also important to understand that they are starting at the bottom, the very bottom of the ladder.
When I started at my internship at the Ritz-Carlton on South Beach, I was there as well – the very bottom of the ladder, maybe even lower than the bottom rung! But, I headed the advice of many of my chef instructors from school, and they all had the same message: close your mouth and open your ears and eyes, be a sponge, don’t be cocky. This lesson is an important one and one that I hope to pass onto the young chefs I have the pleasure of working with and speaking to over the years. And through years of perseverance and making the most of the right opportunities, I have made it in this crazy industry!
On that note, I would say that my parents, my teachers and some of the great chefs that I’ve not only worked FOR but also worked WITH over the years have been my biggest inspiration. They’ve instilled in me a will to be better than yesterday, to beat the odds and be successful in this industry coupled with true hard work and no sense of time: no clocking in or clocking out, or crying about long hours or hot kitchens or people being “mean to me” or “too hard on me.” I’ve kept my hunger for knowledge, my curiosity, my love or travel and sense of appreciation. Those things have made me the chef and person I am today!
So, congratulations grads, you have worked hard to get here. Enjoy these moments and this last summer before you either move onto to whatever life has in store. You deserve to celebrate, and remember, you’ll never stop learning until you choose to stop learning!