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Food

His first course

With a passion for cooking and business smarts outside of the kitchen, a young bay area chef's future simmers with possibilities.

By Edouardo Jordan
Published March 22, 2006


photo
[Times photo: Brian Cassella]
Edouardo Jordan, a 1998 graduate of Boca Ciega High School in Pinellas County, has just completed an internship at Mise en Place in Tampa. He now heads to the prestigious French Laundry restaurant north of San Francisco.

I am on a mission to become the best chef in America and possibly the greatest chef on this planet.

My goal is to work and train in the best kitchens in America and to learn from the masters in the industry, chefs like Frank Stitts, Alain Ducasse, Charlie Trotter, Eric Ripert and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Then I want to travel to Europe to learn what the cutting-edge chefs are doing in Spain. But for now, after finishing my internship at Mise en Place in Tampa, my next stop is Napa Valley, Calif., and the French Laundry to study under the master himself, chef Thomas Keller, for six months.

A year ago, I made a life-changing decision and enrolled in the Orlando Culinary Academy. This after earning two degrees at a four-year university, starting a small business and managing a music artist. I was unhappy, and my dismay drove me to my real love: food.

After a rough start in my first job I began thinking about a career in the restaurant industry. I researched restaurants online and then created a Web site spotlighting my hometown restaurants. I collected recipes and wrote my own for a cookbook I still hope to publish.

Writing recipes proved one thing: I had a lot to learn about food.

Yeah, I could have gone to some big kitchen and worked my way up from dishwasher to line cook to potentially sous-chef and maybe, if my luck was right, executive chef. But who really has 50-plus hours a week to slave in someone else's kitchen for 15 years without any guarantees? Besides, restaurants open and close every day, so who is to say how long the restaurant would be around? I took the other route and went back to school.

In a way, culinary school has become an extension of high school. Many of the students are still unsure about their career path and don't take classes seriously, which makes the teaching process that much harder on staff.

And staff is another issue. Because of the increased interest in food and cooking, largely because of TV cooking shows, culinary programs are bursting with students. This has created an increased demand for instructors. With demand high, students will face inexperienced and passionless teachers more than they'd like.

But for me, culinary school is the only way to get to the top.

Many kitchens, at least at four- and five-star restaurants, do not have time to train new employees on culinary basics, plus they expect new employees to have at least five years of work experience or some formal training.

I was once told that making it in any career is 10 percent what you know and 90 percent who you know. That made sense to me so I used culinary school as a networking tool, in addition to learning the basics of cooking. I built a network of passionate students and key people in the industry through competitions and attending food shows.

Also sparking a fire in me is the money I spent on school. Thanks, Aunt Sallie Mae, for helping me come up with the cash.

That was money spent; now I look forward to money earned. The potential is great and I hope my schooling puts me at the top of the heap. I read online at Forbes.com that some superstar chefs earn more than $1-million a year and others average nearly $100,000 a year. So there is hope to get out of the minimum wage rut.

My advice to others thinking about going into the culinary field is to seize the opportunities. Learn under the best chefs, work hard and network. That's my plan.

Edouardo Jordan, 25, is a 1998 graduate of Boca Ciega High School in Gulfport. He graduated in January from the Orlando Culinary Academy.

[Last modified March 22, 2006, 06:30:35]


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