Looking Out For Life’s Details And Bringing It To The Kitchen With Executive Chef Douglas Zuk


Looking Out For Life’s Details And Bringing It To The Kitchen With Executive Chef Douglas Zuk

BOF 9 | The Chef Lifestyle


It can be so easy to get caught in the pace of this industry and forget your life outside of it. Many routinely go from work, do what they have to do, leave, and repeat it the next day. Our guest, Executive Chef Douglas Zuk, is here to remind us to pay attention to the details of our own life while pursuing our craft. Chef Douglas has over 27 years of experience in hospitality service with a diverse background in many types of cuisine and concepts. In Las Vegas, he was the Executive Chef at Hanks Green Valley Station Casino, Off the Strip Bistro at the LINK, Flour and Barley, to name a few. In this episode, he takes us through his career journey from being a busboy and a waiter to becoming a top chef. He opens up as well about going through the passing of his wife and the many realizations he learned about life from it. Sharing his own expert advice, Chef Doug also talks about being a leader and managing people in the kitchen, and shares one of the recipes he made with the South of France.

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Looking Out For Life’s Details And Bringing It To The Kitchen With Executive Chef Douglas Zuk

The Chef Lifestyle Versus Life Balance

We have one of Marie's wonderful friends, Doug, here. Marie is a chef and she has a book already out. It’s on Amazon. That's pretty phenomenal. It was the 100,000 degrees of greatness of French cuisine. What are we talking about here? What's happening? You should start crazy these days. You’re on fire.

You only read French healthy cuisine, low carb and gluten-free with vegan alternatives for all the recipes. Doug, you're going to love it and so read the book also. Chef Douglas Zuk is an amazing top chef from coast to coast that started in Florida. Who is your mentor?

My mentor is myself in ten years. I stole that from a very famous actor. When I heard that, it impressed me because being in the chef industry, I get to rub elbows with all these top chefs and all these big chefs, I don't get excited when I see these guys. Most of these chefs that are there are cut from the same cloth that I'm cut from, only they've taken a little bit of a different route and you have become that famous celebrity chef guy. When I would see them, I would never get starstruck around them. I always want to know what I'm going to be in ten years. That's what I go after.

You have been working for a good several years at the Hank’s Fine Steaks Restaurant at Green Valley Ranch Resort Spa & Casino in Las Vegas. You have been working in many places and you have opened restaurants as well. Would you want to talk a bit about this? You were in Hawaii and Colorado. You've been going a bit around nationwide.

It all started in Florida many years ago. I started working in restaurants out there because it's the easiest thing to do. It is the easiest way to make money, whether it is a busboy, a bartender or whatever it was. It was always the easiest job to get. You didn't have to have a lot of skills for it. You didn't have to have any qualifications. You just have to get in there and work hard. That's basically what it was to start off. I worked in Florida for a few years as a busboy, a barback and a waiter. I became a cook in the kitchen because the whole kitchen had some immigration problems. The whole kitchen got deported and I was one of the only people that knew the whole menu.

The owners of the restaurant thanked me one night when I got off from working during the day to go in and help cook at night. I was like, “What do I know about cooking?” They're like, “You wrote a whole menu.” When I did a little gig in the kitchen, I ended up loving what I was doing. A friend of mine knew that there was a culinary school opening. I went to Johnson & Wales. I got a job at the Hilton Hotel. I loved everything else when I am there. It’s a little bit more structured than in the original kitchen that I worked in. From there, I graduated school and I ended up looking at all the famous chefs out of Florida. I started working for all of them. I will go to 2 or 3 chefs and I would work and I wouldn't even get paid. I was going in and working in their kitchen to gain experience and to see how was it working for these chefs. After that, I was in Florida and a chef from Hawaii came in. He did a guest chef seminar or a guest chef weekend with us. He took us to Hawaii and opened up restaurants. I was 20 to 25 years old then.

Let’s talk about the different types of cuisine too.

When I was in Florida, the chefs that I worked for had Floribbean cuisine. It encompasses all the stuff from the Caribbean, Southern food, fresh vegetables. When you think of Florida and what bounty of things Florida has because of the weather they have down there, all the food was geared towards that. That's where I got my first experience working with fresh quality food. When I started my first job at Hilton, big hotels' food qualities are not as good as an amazing farm to table food. This was way before the farm to table concept took off in America. These people were the pioneers in doing that kind of stuff. I worked with them down there and became an assistant chef in the kitchen in a restaurant called East City Grill. It is no longer around because of the way things get built in Florida.

It had a good run on the vibe for about 10 to 12 years. The building got totaled and that's a new building going and so forth. From there, we went off to Hawaii. Imagine Hawaii fruits, vegetables, fish and all the different things that Hawaii is known for, I got to work with. I worked at the celebrity stuff out there. When I went out to Hawaii, I worked with Chef Sam Choy. They call him the godfather of Hawaiian cuisine. I go from working in Florida with all these products from Hawaii. All the stuff that we had of those are very similar but in Hawaii, it was closer to the heart. Imagine being 2,500 miles out in the middle of the ocean, getting everything from air can be difficult sometimes. The Hawaiian people would rely on the land a lot. They rely on the ocean. We were going to fish markets in Hilo, in the Suisan Fish Market. These fishes are coming off the boat. We're looking at this fish for hours out of the water and we're choosing what we want. It was crazy. It was absolutely amazing to be able to work with that stuff.

You'd have all the little local farmers because everybody knew Sam Choy. These little local farmers would show up to our door with boxes of papayas, squash, taro and all this stuff and would give it to us. They wouldn't even charge. They'd be like, “Here, Uncle Sam.” Little did they know, he was never after that. Once every 1 or 2 weeks, he would be there to check up on things, but they had him running around opening restaurants, doing book tours and all this stuff. It was our opportunity to go, “Here's what we got.” I spent some time with Sam and opened up a second restaurant for him. At that point, in my whole tenure so far, I've already opened three restaurants. On the opening team of three restaurants from Hawaii, we went over and worked for the only brewing company in Hawaii at the time. We were the only people who built the Fish & Game Brewing Company. I worked for them for about 3.5 to 4 years. That's where I met my wife. She and her friends were on vacation there and we all met and we started our relationship from that point. We did a long-distance relationship between Hawaii and Colorado for about a year and a half, if you can believe that.

Doug, you went from not knowing anything from any chef deals and you go into the final, probably Hawaii and stuff like that. What was your balance? How did you feel? Were there any trials and tribulations along that way that you had? Were you completely feeling, “I'm totally blessed right now with super positive energy?” What was your mindset coming from those ten years?

At the time, I was still young and I was impressionable. People still ask me nowadays, “What's your specialty?” I always tell them, “My specialty is cooking. My specialty is food.” They’re like, “Don't you have a certain genre or anything that you do?” I was like, “I cook. That's what I do. That is my specialty.” People would ask, “Do you do Italian or something?” I was like, “I do Italian. I do German. I do Hawaiian. I cook. That's what I do for a living.” In my younger days, I was trying to learn as much as I could because I was full of energy. I was full of life. I’m not saying that I'm not full of energy now but back then, I had a little bit more. I like to go work out 13 to 14 hours a day, go out and party with all my friends, and wake up at 6:00 AM to go back to work. I did it and not even worry about it.

Back in the days, we all did that. You work and then party. You don’t sleep and then you come back and you are fresh as a rose.

I don't think there were any trials and tribulations for me. When you get into this industry, when you trade with the chefs, it's getting up, go to work, go do what you have to do and get back to work. It's this big cycle and you learn every single day. As a chef, even today, I still learn things. There are still foods that you couldn't believe that I would get in my kitchens and hang in there where I was working at and I would try a new recipe and go like, “I've never done that before.” That's what my whole trials and tribulations were.

What is Hank’s? You talked about Hank’s, is that in Vegas? Where are you residing now?

I'm still in Vegas. I resigned from my position. I was working at Hank's Fine Steaks & Martinis, which was in Green Valley Ranch. I have some other opportunities that were presented to me where I'm going to get to do some things for myself. I resigned from my position at Hank’s and I'm moving on to another stage of my life. A few years ago, my wife and I were both in Vegas. About several years ago, in December, my wife had passed away. Everything I was doing for the last several years has always been like, “My wife wants me to do that.” Months ago, I finally realized, shove was in lover. She's still here in spirit. I know she's all around me, but I got to the point where I realized that I have to start doing something for myself. I think that was a big part of the healing process. For the last few years, I was walking around in this bubble and in this cloud. I was always like, “Am I going to heal? Have I healed? Have I mourned the loss of my wife?” You don’t know. You get into life and you start rolling.

Months ago, that's when it clicked in my head and I went, “You’ve got to get out and do something and continue your legacy.” I have a good friend of mine who for the last several years, ever since my wife passed away, he’s been bugging me and poking me to open a restaurant. He's a guy with a lot of connections. The option was presented every year and I go, “Yeah.” Every day, I would go to work and come home. I’ll go to sleep, wake up and then go to work. It was this big vicious cycle. I wanted to break that cycle and I was like, “I'm going to take that big step.” I've taken a step off the cliff. I've jumped and now I'm waiting for my parachute to open. I understand that it’s a part of life. If you don't take chances in life, where are you going to be?

BOF 9 | The Chef LifestyleThe Chef Lifestyle: If you don't take chances in life, where are you going to be? 

You bring up something that's very powerful for a lot of people. Thank you for being so candid and my condolences for your loss. The people who were before us and who would be here after us, Doug, they empower us to do bigger things than we ever thought. As you said, absolutely she's here. She's the one that's pretty much driving the force of taking care of your soul, who you are and where you're going. That energy is always infinite and you creating something new is absolutely powerful. I don't know you as well as Marie at all. I don't know you've met him, but I'm very intuitive about your spirit. You're such a wonderful person to be talking to. I can see your journey and how it's turned out because you're one hell of a human being. That's what I can tell from you. Your trajectory is not something that's insane or crazy. You've decided to jump now. Honestly, Doug, enough falling, your parachute's already opened. You've done all the work. I believe that when we're here on Earth, we have to perfect ourselves for God, the universe and whatever you believe in. You've done that. You've jumped and you're flying my friend.

Thank you. I appreciate that. Another good little tidbit that I picked up along my way, a little bit of knowledge. We had a general manager that worked with us at Green Valley Ranch. He was very big in leadership classes and helping all the leaders do things. He had us do this eight-week class, two hours every Thursday for eight weeks. At that whole time, guess how much content we could have covered? The only thing that I took out of that whole class, and I don't know why, was he asked us one day, “What is your ‘why?’ Why are you here at Green Valley Ranch? Why are you here in Las Vegas? Everybody, think about it and then come next week and in class. I want you to come and tell me what's your ‘why.’ Why do you do it? Whether you have to have job security for your children, you have to support your family, whatever it is.”

I thought about it for a whole entire week. We got into class the next week and got around to me in the thing. He goes, “Doug, what's your ‘why?’” I said, “I don't know.” That was months ago. He looked at me and goes, “I've never had anybody say that. That's odd. Here is the thing, you were honest about it. Everybody else came in and they go, ‘I have to support my children. I have to do this.’ Those are all great reasons but that's not a ‘why.’” Why am I going off to do this next step? It's what I meant to do. I've recognized that and I realized that now. That's why I'm doing it. I found my ‘why.’

I know from Marie's case, she can answer for herself, but I watched her what she's been doing for the last several years. She's in research and development for spices as well as you, Doug. You said that this is the only thing you got out of it, but that's the only purpose in life resides in creating something that's new for yourself. It's very tough and you are authentic with yourself and your soul.

It's the same for you, Lee, with your purpose in life and your ‘why’ by searching to create those goals all the time and finding funds, finding resources and finding the right people to work with. This is the main ‘why’ for continuing to exist as creators. We are all in the same basket for this particular ‘why.’ It's great that you bring that back, Doug, because our audience will ask themselves those questions too, “Why?” every day.

That's a very important question for our audience too. If you haven't done that, you need to spend some time journal and be in touch with yourself. Ask yourself, why are you doing what you're doing?

As I was saying in my journey back then, I never thought about that. I did it because that's what I was trained to do, I was focused to do and I was programmed to do that. Now that I've gotten a little bit more maturity in myself, every morning when I wake up, I listened to a little meditation thing on my phone about the power of me. It’s twenty minutes of going, “I'm powerful. I'm all-knowing. I’m this. I go self-affirmation.” Several years ago, I would've never done that. I was like, “How would I ever get up and let go?” Now that I'm getting later on in my life, I'm getting up there in age, so I want to make sure that my last few years on Earth are going to be spent happy and joyous.

You bring up a great point that you said something about. I know that Marie does and she's sent me a couple of things, which I've listened to based on the balancing of yourself, the balancing of soul or whatever you want to call that. I feel that these things that we've picked for ourselves, you found a really good balance, but I do want to challenge what you said a little bit. I'm not nearly challenging you, but I don't think we're necessarily supposed to know at a young age. I think that you've done the work that you've chef read all over the place. You've learned those things at the right time and the right season. This is a new season for you that’s spicing up your life. That's the rip open, whatever that season is. All those things you've learned and encompassed, those things with the loss of your wife and who you are in Vegas, in Hawaii, that would've never been possible at all until you've arrived now. I'm happy for you. I'm absolutely astounded for the things you've done and going to do later on in your life.

I learned a long time ago that everything happens for a reason. I believe that your life is planned out. Somewhere in the universe, they know when your last day on this God's green Earth is going to be. I relate a lot to my late wife. Let me tell you a quick story. One day, when we were dealing with her sickness, everybody has a very positive outlook and unfortunately, she was at the hospital at that time. I got home and it was very positive from all the doctors and everybody was like, “Everything is going to be great.” At this point with her sickness, I had not broken down and cried yet. I got home one day and I started taking a shower, then the emotions poured out and I broke down in the shower. I was on my hands and knees and I was like, ‘What's going on?” I couldn't wrap my head around it and then it clicked to me that a year before that, my wife and I had met for this reason.

I met her because I was going to be the one to see her through this journey. That was my purpose in life. At that point, I was like, “I've satisfied my purpose and now I have to think that I got a bigger purpose because I'm still here.” There are a lot of profound things when you deal with the passing of somebody that you've been intimate with. Passing parents are a little bit different than passing a wife because you've had intimacies and stuff with your wife that you're never going to have with your parents. It's been a big experience. I think that pushed me to what I have to do to be a little bit stronger.

You can be in service to other people in this world whether that's an intimate relationship, child or friend. That serves well for humanity in general. Marie was talking about someone that's a friend of mine. She's like, “It goes two-fold. The friendship, the relationships, you have to get something out of that.” You, for sure, gave something as well with your wife as well as her giving some back to you, which is the absolute intangibles. I think that was pretty wonderful and to be able to break down and be vulnerable because we've talked about before with our friend, Chef Marie, about the vulnerability being strengthened and not a weakness. It's encouraging. Thank you.

Doug, you are a caregiver and you gave a lot on your personal journey, but you also give a lot in your profession. You put your heart on the table every time that you are offering a dish to your clients. I would like to salute your great talent because you are giving to your clients. I saw you and you served me also, but you are giving values of yourself and it shows on the dish. The dish doesn't taste the same anymore. It is out of this world. You have that very special recipe of yours of blending your heart and it best presents on a plate. I'd like to talk about your talent and because your food is very exquisite and it's very personal to you. Chefs are chefs. They have an ego. They have their own passion in their own food, but you give food in another way.

The one keyword that you said was passion. I read an interesting article from Chef Marco Pierre White. It went into all that how kids nowadays are going to culinary school because mommy and daddy have $60,000 to $80,000 and they can afford to send their kids to a school. They get in there and they come out of culinary school and they think, “I'm a chef.” He was nineteen years old, “You're not a chef, believe me. You have to pay your dues.” Me and Chef Marie, we have sat in kitchens and earn $13 to $14 a day, chef had throwing things at us. That's what develops the passion. My years at Hank’s, we were awarded the best fine dining restaurant in Las Vegas for two years in a row. This last, we got it that came out in the Las Vegas review journal. It came out two weeks after I had left. I've been gone there since October 4th, but it came out two weeks later. I called the chef that took over for me and I held the magazine up and I go, “We got it again.” He goes, “I got that for a restaurant.” The way I got it was the way I led the crew because I couldn't have done any of this about my crew. I'm not a one-man show.

I went in there and I wrapped my arms around these people when I first started working there and I told them, “We can do better.” Every night, pushing dishes back to them and going, “This is not acceptable. Do another one.” Their eyes started opening and they started seeing the passion that I hired below me that understood my passion and understood my direction. They're taking it to another level. I don't think none of us could have gotten there alone. It was a team effort. Everybody played a vital role. The first time we got that fine dining award, I held it up in front of my staff, I pointed out, I go, “This is what it was all about, pounding my fist and yelling and screaming.” If you remember, I almost had a stroke in the kitchen. That's the culmination of all and that's how we got that award. I told them as I left, “Please keep it going. Please don't let your passion fade. Make it brighter and continue to do what you do.” They have a great chef that they're working with now. He was my assistant chef for many years, “Don't lose this award.”

You are such a charismatic leader. You are amazing.

I have to be. I work with chefs all my life that they would go, “Me.” They would never recognize everybody below them. Somebody told me one day, “How many people do you manage?” I go, “Two.” He goes, “You have a kitchen of 40 people.” I go, “I manage two people to chef the kitchen. I manage my assistant chef and my sous chef. They manage everybody below me. I don't have time to be running around managing 40 people. I manage two people.” We do delegation, which is a very important part of being a chef.

That’s very hard to do.

BOF 9 | The Chef LifestyleThe Chef Lifestyle: Your life is planned out. Everything happens for a reason. 

You know how it is. You have chefs that are constantly doing round circles in the kitchen. They never get anything accomplished. They have 40 to 50 things going on, but they never finish one thing. They have a bunch of stuff and you can't do that. You have to work smart, not hard.

It's very difficult to delegate because you want to keep all the control to make sure that everything's going to be perfect, but it's not happening. It's a vicious issue. It's a personal issue that needs to be worked out.

One of my daily routines as a chef is I would walk the kitchen, I would call my walk. I would literally walk the whole entire kitchen. As I would do that, I would take mental notes of things that I saw like, “This is out of place. This light bulb was out. Why is there a flower over here? It should be over here.” I would go through all the corners and look at everything. Later, when my folks would come in, they would go, “Chef, we don't have any celery.” I'd go, “Top shelf left-handside behind the lever.” They go, “There it is.” That's what I was trying to keep to my chefs below me that you’ve got to know your kitchen, your surroundings. You can't come in with your head spinning around dizzying. You have to come to me for that. That's getting down to business. That's what I was taught a long time ago. When you walk in the kitchen, you've got to take mental notes of everything going on in the kitchen because as a chef, you're responsible for everything in the kitchen. If this isn’t right, you don't want one of your bosses to come up to you and go, “Why is that over there?” It looks like you're not doing your job.

Doug, you had mentioned about the person who's 18 or 19, whose parents can pay for him go to school to be a chef. The thing that's missing is these newer kids that are doing those things are the same parents that are pushing someone that wants to get a black belt in a year. You spend 10,000 hours to become a Jedi. You've had this mastery, both you and Chef Marie. There's a mastery element of what you do. In time, I think with anything that you do, whether it's making movies or being a teacher or being a chef, what you are trying to impart is being completely in the power of now and being present as your chef, but you have those 10,000 hours. I see that knowing if there are celeries or where that exactly isn't taking mental notes. I think those are things that if people are wanting to be a chef or wanting to be better in life in general, take it from Doug, you have to be passionate and caring and have those 10,000 hours. A lot of times these days, people go by the fact that in order to be good at something, because of all these Millennials, we listen to digital. We know that we had records. 

You've mentioned how essentially how old you are. I'm 48, I know what it means to work hard at something. Not everyone gets a trophy at the end of the day, Doug. You do. People think that they can grab on to something and not do the work. You've done the work, you've done the 10,000 hours to have that mastery. It's awesome. I think that people, reading this, if it's not being a chef, pay attention to your own life, pay attention to those smaller details about wanting to do the work and having the details that do matter is what I'm hearing from you. I know that's true in my life, the details.

I would add also to continue to be curious and aware. The day that I walked in Chef Zuk’s restaurant, I was bringing in new product solution in the Zuk service that was not discovered yet. He could have shut off my presentation because there’s no time, long hours, there’s stress, no food in his stomach, any types of factors that can affect a chef's life. He opened his heart and said, “You've got fifteen minutes, show me what you've got.” It turned out for an hour, but you are curious and aware. It's part of being amazing.

I heard that there's a little rumor that it's going to be in a restaurant opening up somewhere. It's going to carry your whole spice line. That’s what I have heard.

That's a good little rumor. The next part of the show is basically we're going to share a recipe from one of these two about some amazing whatever it is that they got going on and an anecdotal story and then an awesome quote by Chef Marie. Where are we at this? I love food. What are you going to share with me?

Right before I left Hank’s, we changed the menu over and we were doing a sea bass dish. We had it over a purple potato puree and roasted brussels sprouts. We were trying to come up with an idea to do something on the outside of the fish, like a crust. It was in Vegas and you don't have any seasons here in Vegas. We didn't want to tie the dish down with a heavy sauce on top of it. We said, “Let's try to use some herb crust or something on the outside of it.” It happened that one day, we had a few of the bags of stuff that you had brought to us. We were playing around with all these herbs and we use that one time with a wine dinner. We did it with a dessert. We did it with some chocolate and the pastry chef sprinkled the ground up a little bit on top. The flavors were incredible.

When we were coming up with the fish dish, we thought we’ve got to get some herbal notes on the fish because we have this potato puree and the brussels sprouts. We came up with the idea of doing the herbs, but it’s whole so you see all the beautiful colors and everything. We did a line of it right across the top of the fish. If we flipped the fish over in the pan, put it in the oven for a few seconds to have it open up and have fragrance every time we were pulling that fish out of the oven. I felt like there was a very sexy woman walking through the kitchen because of the lavender and it smells. It is amazing and it's crazy because that's what cooking is all about. When you smell things and you taste things, taking you back to days when you are at your grandmother's house or somewhere. We can all tie in the experience.

What type of fat were you using? Were you using butter or olive oil? What are you using to cook your fish with?

We started off with a little bit of an 80/20 blend of canola and olive and then you have your butter to finish your fish with.

Do you use room-temperature butter or you used clarified butter?

It was whole butter. Every time we pulled one of those fish out of the oven, the perfume and the aroma are so good. I can't help but smell it now.

You make us smell your food again. Thank you so much for the recipe. 

We have discussed it before. That's the great thing about good quality products, especially in Hank’s. I had the pleasure of cooking for you before and we always talked about all the products we got. That's the one thing I loved about working there. I have to work with the best products in the world and nobody ever questioned me like, “How much is that?” It was always, “The best product, get it.” That's where my training and my kitchens have always been. If you start with the best product, you can't go anywhere but up. You can't go any higher and it's not a very hard fight. Whereas if you use less than quality products, it's always a hard fight to get to that point to make you look and taste good. That's why a lot of chefs have to throw twenty different sauces on the plate. You can make beautiful plates of the products with five or six ingredients on the plate. It's easy, good products. That’s where it all started.

That's the secret and the techniques too. Lee, Doug certainly has a lot of funny stories. Can you share with us about what happened in this kitchen for the past several years? Do you want to share some with us?

BOF 9 | The Chef LifestyleThe Chef Lifestyle: When you walk in the kitchen, you've got to take mental notes of everything going on because as a chef, you're responsible for everything in there.

Back in my younger days, when I was working for the hotel, I had a chef and when I would cook something every single time, the chef would come in. If I was making soup, he'd come up and he tastes the soup. He always told me to turn around. He didn't want me seeing what he was going to do for soup. One day, we did that and I looked in the window of the kitchen. I looked and I saw him reach into his pocket, pull something out, throw something in the soup, reach into his other pockets, he'll come and put something in the soup. He goes, “Come here, taste them out.” Mind you, this is when I was younger. This is when I was only a cook. I tasted this food and I went from here to here. I was like, “What did he do?” This went on for weeks.

Finally, I watched him every night when he would be leaving. He would take all his laundry down to the laundry room in the hotel and I thought, “I'm going to go look within his pocket.” I went down to the laundry room and I had a girl that worked in a laundry room. I brought her a burger or something. I said, “Do me a favor. Where is Chef Bills’ pants that he had?” She looked at it and she goes, “Why?” I go, “Where is his pants?” I turned the pockets inside out and I was like, “What? That's spicy. It’s pepper.” The other one I've got to go, “That's salty.” He has salt and pepper in his pockets. Every time I want to make something as a young student, I didn't understand salt and pepper the way he uses it and how it awakens a dish.

You put salt and pepper on your pocket, right?

Yeah. The next day, I was thinking to be a smart ass. I loaded each one of my pockets with salt and pepper. He goes, “You know the drill, turn around.” I go, “No, you know the drill, turn around.” He looked at me weird and I go, “I got this, Chef.” He's looking at me and turned around. I over-salted the soup, but it was a huge lesson for me. That's when I started balancing flavors and a little bit of acid, a little bit of salt, a little bit of vinegar and creating the dishes. That's where my younger self got, which I would get a good kick out of it. There were a lot of stories. One day I was working in a Mexican restaurant and we were making a white chicken, a cream sauce for Chicken Enchiladas. The chef left me the recipes. He left town or something.

In the recipe, he didn't put amounts. He just put, “Here's the sauce. It's a whole boiled chicken. Make a chicken stock. Throw a bunch of sour cream in. Throw corn towards and then mix it up. Add cornstarch to thicken.” I thought corn starch was going to be a flavor. I’ve added the whole box of cornstarch. Can you imagine when it starts boiling? All the Mexican guys came behind and they were all looking at me going, “What did you do?” I was like, “It’s cornstarch.” They are like, “How much?” I was like, “A whole box.” I couldn't taste it. That recipe was supposed to be two gallons. I ended up making ten-gallon sauce because we had to thin it out. That's what I learned about cornstarch.

That’s the chemistry of cuisine because in cuisine, what's nice about it is that you can always fix your mistakes, but it tasted weird.

I always tell everybody who comes into my kitchen and are very green, I try to offer them these funny stories to make them relax a little bit and think that everybody has made mistakes. Don't think you're going to go through your career without making a mistake. I'm a chef and I still make mistakes. Every day I make the same, but it is how you recover from it and how you learn from it is the most important thing. Learn from your mistakes. Don't beat yourself up over your mistakes. Don't let them happen.

Don't do that more than two times. A quote that I thought about you. It's from the famous Auguste Escoffier. It says, “Good food is the foundation of genuine happiness. The greatest dishes are very simple. People who do not accept the new, grow old very quickly. Soup puts the heart at ease. It comes down to the violence of hunger. It eliminates the tension of the day and awakens and refines the appetite.” It gives me chills because it makes me think about you and your secret recipes and your talents. You're so genuine. I find that the most beautiful aspect of you as a chef is your happiness and your joy. After all, you've been going through in your life. That's such a hard challenge that you've been going through. You still put up that smile every day. Thank you for doing that because all the people around you are truly affected positively by who you are. It's your heart. You're beautiful.

You have to be like that, especially when you're a leader because you set the tone for what's going to happen that day in the kitchen. My staff could tell when I wasn't having a good day. I thought I could hide it. I thought I'd walk in the kitchen and I would have guys go like, “Are you okay, chef? Is everything okay?” If I get a lot of stress in my life, they could see it. They knew it. A week after I resigned, I went back and said hi to everybody and every single person that I went and saw was like, “You look amazing. You look so happy. You look refreshed.” I was like, “I’m not working, of course I'm going to be refreshed.” I know what they were talking about. I identify with that very well. I couldn't hide my stress, whatever it was. It's who I am.

Good luck with your next chapter of life. That's going to be outstanding. We're excited for you and we're going to keep our audience posted on the follow-ups with what's going to happen for you in 2020.

I will come back and do another one of these with my new identity once it's ready.

Thank you so much for the interview. Thank you for sharing deep secrets with us and amazing tips.

Thank you, Doug. Take care, everyone.

Thank you.

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