Doug Psaltis: An Old-Fashioned Culinary EducationAdviser | Tuesday, March 8th, 2011 | 1 Comment »
“Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.” – Martha Graham.
After reading “The Seasoning of a Chef,” by Doug Psaltis, it was apparent that this man is driven by the pursuit of perfection. The common occurrence throughout his story is that he never finds it as once he has hit the ceiling of a particular establishment, he seeks the next level. Family, relationships, and a general social life are rarely mentioned unless he writes about how he doesn’t have these things in his life.
From his grandfather’s diner in Queen’s to Alain Ducasse’s ADNY to Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, the story’s consistent theme is that complacency does not exist in this man’s world.
Psaltis never attended culinary school but has worked within the industry for over 25 years. Although he never received a formal training where grades determined if you passed or failed, he feels culinary education had always been in front of him, however, his employers, chefs, and peers were his teachers.
The book, “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell and its principal of 10,000 hours of practice (completed well before the age of 21 based on his autobiography) along with opportunity (his grandfather’s restaurant as a start) explain how Psaltis became successful without culinary school. An obsessive and self-driven personality is not to be discounted.
Now with Rich Melman and the Lettuce Entertainment Group, Psaltis has worked amongst some of the best chefs in the country and for a chef that is in his 30’s, he does not appear to want to take a break from the routine of 16 hour work days.
If your goal is to work in the food industry, culinary school could help you. What’s important is to look into how many hours in the kitchen are dedicated to the class as well as if the school offers additional lab time for practice. Another consideration is the cost of the program. If it fits into your financial budget, one can earn anywhere from 500-1000 hours of kitchen time by attending culinary school. While attending school, one can earn more hours by applying what they are learning in the classroom into a restaurant kitchen.
However, having opportunities to gain experience or the perseverance to create your own opportunities along with the ability to see work and life as a marathon as opposed to a sprint, it’s possible for anyone to establish a career in the culinary industry through Psaltis’ method. It comes down to drive and determination: two things that cannot be taught in a classroom.