Whether you're responsible for supplying great ingredients to restaurants or the foodservice equipment to cook those ingredients, it helps to have trained professionals on your side. That's why our team at Total Source includes two graduates from the Culinary Institute of America.
The CIA is one of the top culinary schools in the world with graduates working in many of the world's most recognizable restaurants, and whether you're looking for foodservice equipment and supplies or the food itself, we encourage you to leverage our CIA-trained chefs.
Let's introduce you to them now.
Both of you graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, what was that experience like?
Chef Pat Harrington: For me, The CIA was the pinnacle of exposure to many cultures and cuisines from around the world. The faculty and students all are focused on learning and sharing while striving to be the best.
Did it have the same impact on you, Chef Kris?
Chef Kris Figueroa: It was an amazing experience -- being immersed in all things culinary and being taught by some of the most accomplished chefs in the world.
What was it that made you want to become a chef?
Chef Kris:Having worked in restaurants throughout high school, I was drawn to the energy and intensity of kitchen life. The camaraderie among kitchen staff was like family.
Chef Pat:Two things for me - culture and creativity. I had the opportunity to travel the world playing rugby in my early twenties. The diversity of culture and people coming together to share food was inspirational. To me, cooking is the exploration and creativity of taking raw ingredients and applying some imagination, craftsmanship, and techniques to finish them into a dish or meal that makes another person happy. I am thankful for that opportunity. I still love being a part of that every day. “Food is life, my life is food."
What’s the best part of being a chef?
Chef Kris:For me, it's having the ability to look in my refrigerator and produce an impressive meal out of nothing but basic ingredients and leftovers. My wife is still amazed by this 😀.
Chef Pat: People! Whether it’s the people you work hard with or someone trying a new food for the first time, there's the wonder and amazement and sometimes joy from food that's done well that we get to bring to people. We get to interact with them.
What about the tools of your trade? What is your go-to piece of foodservice equipment or supplies?
Chef Kris:The combi oven! This is the single most versatile piece of equipment you can have, allowing you to do almost any cooking method.
Chef Pat:I would have to say the combi oven, as well! As Kris said, its diversity is so understated. I can use it in a manual or programable mode, in so many ways, and in a range of combinations for very different outcomes. The possibilities are endless!
What’s your favorite dish to prepare?
Chef Pat:My grandmother’s Irish Stew. It’s a very simple dish, but it reminds me of time well spent with my family and friends every time I make it.
Chef Kris:Recently, I’ve been enjoying BBQ. I’ll smoke a brisket for an hour or two, vacuum seal it, and then sous vide for another few hours until perfectly cooked. It's a combination of traditional methods and modern technology and yet another use for a combi oven.
Is there one cuisine type you can never tire of eating?
Chef Pat:Southwestern cuisine! The best local and regional ingredients of Mexico and the Southwest. The many chiles and corn varieties paired with great proteins, prepared in a mix of traditional and fusion techniques, produce the ultimate in flavorful comfort food.
Chef Kris:That’s a tough one because I need variety. I’ll need another 30 years in the industry to make that decision.
We'll have to check back with you on that then, okay? What about challenges in the kitchen? In your experience, what’s the biggest challenge a staff deals with on a regular basis?
Chef Kris: Labor and consistency.
Chef Pat: TIME. The biggest challenge for anyone in a kitchen is getting things done to make our operations successful and finding more time for the things we want to do, such as new ideation and development. There is so much new technology and equipment available to help with that, and a large part of what we do as chefs is sharing the food and equipment possibilities with operators so that they can gain much of that time for themselves.
In your current role working on the equipment side of things, how often are you pulling from experiences that you had as a chef in the past?
Chef Pat:Every day. When we can speak to an operator on their terms, recognizing how they do things, we can offer solutions. My experience currently and from what I have learned in the past helps me ask the right questions of operators. Once I can clarify their vision or process, I can make suggestions to save them money! That can be through a food product or piece of kitchen equipment designed to guarantee a better return in time or labor savings while delivering a quality product.
Chef Kris: Almost daily. We are constantly helping operators find the right equipment based on what they are trying to accomplish. Knowing the operations side of the business allows me to find solutions for the customer.
Any advice for those looking to get into the culinary profession?
Chef Kris:Work in the industry for a while before attending culinary school. This will help you decide if it’s the right fit.
Chef Pat:Research your passion. Always be curious and never overlook an opportunity to learn something new. Be fearless and never be afraid to fail! We learn more from our experiences, good or bad, than we realize. Is it cooking? People? A need to be the best? Be honest with yourself. Expose yourself to as much food and culture as possible. If you can afford the time and money, travel or take some classes. I was very fortunate to go to the Culinary Institute of America. Go work for an accomplished chef to learn discipline, timing, and technique. Go work for a startup or large resort group to learn operations. The food industry offers many challenges and rewards for those of us that love what we do!
Want to book some time to discuss equipment, menu offerings, or even ways to best run your back-of-house operation with one of our culinary experts? Click below to schedule a call or even stop by our test kitchen for a demo.