LA Chef Kyle Schutte’s first job

(Originally published December 28, 2014 on Examiner.com).

Name: Kyle Schutte
Current position: Executive Chef/ Proprietor The FLATS

What was your VERY first restaurant industry job?
KS: The first job I had in any restaurant was an entry level prep cook position at the Tuscarora Mill restaurant in Leesburg, VA.

How did you get this job?
KS: After three years studying psychology in college I dropped everything in search of a more creative life. Something about the restaurant industry had always called to me and I could no longer ignore it. Back home in Loudoun County, VA Tuskies is everyone’s first thought when it comes to fine dining. I sent my resume in a couple times and had heard nothing back so finally I walked in and asked to speak to a manager. Frank the sous chef came out and afforded me a quick interview. During our conversation he asked me many of the typical questions and I gave him raw and honest answers.” I have no experience.” “I know nothing about food.”

The question I remember very vividly was “what is your favorite thing to eat?” I thought I had this answered nailed when I so confidently answered “a filet mignon”. Frank looked at me as if this was the answer that confirmed how little experience I actually had, as if to say “amateur”. Frank then looked at me and replied “I would have said a mustard and herb rubbed rack of lamb myself”. I looked back and told Frank “that’s exactly why I want to work here”. He hired me right there.

How old were you?
KS: I was 21 years old.

What did you do?
KS: The first couple weeks I prepped, and I use the word prepped generously. I had no clue what I was doing. I learned how to hold a knife, what herbs looked and smelled like, basically everything was new to me. Every day I would come into work and the Chef would literally have to find something for me to do. I saw the kitchen moving around me like a well-oiled machine. I didn’t understand how everyone else knew what to do, how they worked off their prep list, how they gathered the mise en place for their stations, how they moved through each service. I learned everything I could absorb from those around me and I was fortunate enough that those chefs and cooks took me under their collective wing and nurtured me.

How long did you have this job?
KS: I had this job for a little over 4 months during the summer of 2004. That fall I left VA to attend culinary school in Atlanta.

Did your responsibilities evolve?
KS: For the first couple weeks my responsibilities were general prep. Then I moved to the line working the pastry, pantry and plancha stations for lunch and dinner. By the end of my time there I was also responsible for cold side brunch each Sunday and assisted with wine dinners and special events.

What did you take away from this job?
KS: More than technical skills and general knowledge the thing I took away was that it is the “whys” and not the “hows” of cooking that are truly important. With only the hows of cooking one can only replicate, but the whys give you the foundation to expand upon and shape your own culinary style.

If and how did your first job inspire you to pursue a career as a chef?
KS: This job was a confirmation of everything I had suspected. I felt more confident than ever that this was the path for me.

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