Chef Jesse Schenker and I have at least three things in common. We both have books being published this fall. We both are mistake-makers. And we've both come to embrace honesty as the best route to success. Of course we do diverge in many areas as well, including the fact that he's a chef with two terrific New York City restaurants (Recette and The Gander). I'm still learning to cook!
I reached out to Jesse to share a couple of mistakes with us: one personal, one culinary. His thoughts are below.
Jesse's Personal Mistake: A Lesson from a Lie
After I got out of jail, I was living in a halfway house in Ft. Lauderdale. I was in a work-release program working at a local tavern and I had heard through the grapevine there was a chef position at a hotel across the street. I went over to the hotel, introduced myself to the General Manager and I did a tasting for the hotel owner and management staff. The next day, they offered me the job including great benefits, creative control, etc. and with the offer package came an employment form which asked if I had ever been convicted of a felony. Due to my inexperience, immaturity and fear of not getting the job, I put "no." A week later, the HR manager called me to rescind the offer since I had lied about my past on the application. Since that moment, I truly learned honesty is the best policy - personally and professionally. Also, that everything happens for a reason (if I had taken that job, I might not be in New York today).
Jesse's Culinary Mistake: The Perfect Sabayon Hack
I was hired to cater a 50 person prestigious wine dinner and the pressure was on. I had written an amazing tasting menu that I was so proud of. I had this great idea to make a savory sabayon with truffles and thyme for a squab dish. During the pickup of this course, hustling to make everything perfect, I foolishly put the finished thyme sabayon in a pot on the stove to warm up, forgetting about it. Upon returning a couple of minutes later, I realized the whole thing completely scrambled and was unusable. Rushing to throw together another sabayon on the fly, I put the finished sabayon in a quart container, put a lid on it and threw it in a water bath under the heat lamp. Several hours after the dinner was over, we were cleaning up, and I realized the sabayon was still warm and not broken. Ever since that day, I've always warmed the sabayon in a covered quart container in a water bath.