What made you want to Stage at Per Se in New York City?
I selected to do my stage at Per Se in New York City because I have always respected Chef Keller and all that he has done for the industry. Based on reading The French Laundry Cookbook and watching videos on YouTube, since I started in this industry I knew that focus and attention to detail would be prevalent. I wanted to push myself to be a better chef and take myself out of my comfort zone; I wanted to see how I would measure up to a restaurant like Per Se.
Can you describe what you did during your Stage?
At Per Se, I would begin work at 6:00 in the morning with the commis. I gathered salt for all the stations and then made all the juices. I would then work off a prep list the chefs would leave for us. I was responsible for setting up the chefs de partie for service and made sure that they had enough product to get them through service each evening. I would have family meal everyday at 12:00, and afterwards we would push to finish our to-do lists before 4:30 so we could begin breaking down the commis kitchen. We would work as a team so that no one fell behind. Once the list was complete I would move onto helping the next person. Usually the chip station had the most work as they had the most "attention to detail" prep. This included making pommes maxims, parmesan tuilles, and other chips used for service each night. I was really great to see everyone come together as a team and help each other out.
What stands out as some of the lessons that you learned during your experience?
This grant experience helped me learn a lot about myself, not just professionally but also personally. I had never traveled alone. In fact, up until this summer I had only traveled to Los Angeles with friends. I spent a lot of my time figuring out how to get around in a big city and where to get on and off the subway. I had every intention of discovering New York and seeing all of the sites. this experience was frightening at first but soon it was nice to take the subway downtown and walk around just to get lost and ind my way back to my apartment.
The things that stuck out the most from my time at Per Se were the little things that you often take for granted: sense of urgency, team work, attention to detail, respect, fun while working, discipline, focus, humility, ingredients, and knife skills. It is easy to lose sight of these things.
What stood out the most for me was spending such an incredible amount fo time with such an amazing team. I knew I would return back to Texas with a new outlook on everything. From teamwork to ingredients, to the importance of family meal, I believe I came back a more skilled chef than I left. Understanding the flow of service and why the kitchen is set the way it is, describing ingredients and dishes, and the scrubbing of the kitchen were all necessary parts of my experience. I think that the sense of urgency is what separates Per Se from the rest – the chefs never slow down and are always working at the highest level. This is what separates a good kitchen from a great kitchen.