Chef

Chef

Chef Mil

Berkeley, CA

Female, 49

I have been working in restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 20 years (two of the restaurants had been in the SF Chronicle's Top 100 Restaurants). I have cooked mostly Mediterranean food, but have some experience with Asian food. I went to cooking school, and worked my way up from being a prep cook (think--prepping 3 cases of artichokes, de-boning 100 quail, and juicing a case of lemons!) to being a chef at a well known restaurant in my area. And no, I am not the yelling type! :)

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Last Answer on March 14, 2013

Best Rated

Do you think the best chefs come from culinary schools, or is it more of an innate talent?

Asked by myra over 11 years ago

Hi Myra, Definitely not. I've cooked with so many cooks that didn't, and they were damn good. It's all about the attitude and heart, I think. I worked with a lot of people who were products of cooking schools that sucked! They thought cooking would be glamorous and it ain't! A lot of these cooks learned on the job. Great question!

Do you feel any responsibility to cook healthy dishes, or is your only concern making something that tastes as good as possible? Do you think ALL restaurants should post the nutritional info of their dishes?

Asked by mikepaschek over 11 years ago

Hi Mike, My first concern, always, is to make something taste superb. That said, one of my priorities is to use the best ingredients possible within the parameters of the cuisine I work with. I wonder what your definition of healthy is. Do you mean no frying? Or vegetarian? If so, the last restaurant I worked for would not qualify. But I have heard stories of folks who had come to the restaurant because it was a special place they came with their mom and sister or else they felt nurtured by the food after their divorce. If that promotes their health is some way, then I am happy. As for the nutritional info, I think that would be very cost prohibitive to do so, especially if the chef liked to change up the menu often. I would find it constricting to have to do it for every dish I felt inspired to put on the menu.

Saw someone else mentioned Yelp. Do food critics even matter anymore, given the amount of online ratings restaurants get?

Asked by jason over 11 years ago

Jason, I'm beginning to think that food critics matter less, especially since newspapers are getting less play. The food section in my area has gotten small; it used to have its own section every week. In a way, I think Yelp is more democratic and pretty accurate, although I know it does solicit money to give restaurants more coverage and to remove any bad ratings.

Single best dining experience you've ever had?

Asked by manamana over 11 years ago

Hi manamana, That is a very hard question to answer! :) I've had so many great restaurant meals. One that stands out is some very simple, but delicious steamed vegetables (yes, you read that right) at Michel Guerard's small place, not his three star, in France. I once had a meal at Chez Panisse where everything was just so out of this world. With some cook friends though, at a get together, everyone brought food. The food was excellent, yes. But something about that evening...we were eating outside someone's beautiful home, on their patio. It was a summer evening, and just everyone laughed so much, shared great stories; there was a camaraderie born of all the stars just lining up that night that made it so magical.

Do you know beforehand when a food critic will be visiting your restaurant? If yes, do you prepare the best version of what you always serve, or do you whip up something out-of-the-ordinary?

Asked by jason over 11 years ago

Hi jason, Well, the main food critic here, not many people know what he looks like. They know that he hangs out with one certain cookbook writer, and sometimes her presence tips the restaurant off. We know when a high-end restaurant opens that he will be coming around, but otherwise, no I don't know. If I knew he was there, I would just make sure to serve up an awesome version of any dishes going to the table. He doesn't really like it when something off the menu is made for him.

Thanks for answering my earlier question. Do you have an opinion on who the best chefs are out there today?

Asked by Wannabe over 11 years ago

Hi Wannabe, I had to think about this...Of course all the ones we know Ferran Adria, Thomas Keller are great just for their innovation. But when it comes to chefs whose food I have eaten consistently, it would have to be David Tanis and Chris Lee who both used to work at Chez Panisse. They both make AMAZING food. I wonder how they do it. Who are your favorites?

Why are there signs in EVERY bathroom saying that employees must wash hands? I figure it must be the law, but is the sign actually to remind employees, or to give customers some sort of peace of mind?

Asked by singh_r over 11 years ago

Hi singh_r, Sorry for the delay. I was in Europe. The sign is to remind employees. Here, the restaurants must have by law, a special hand-washing sink complete with soap and available hand wiping facilities. This sounds sort of gross, but many people are not in the habit of washing their hands even at home. I always wash my hands first thing when I get to work. Sometimes when I tell folks how stringent I am at home with the family, they think I'm mean. I also counter their protests with, "Oh, so you don't want a restaurant chef to think like this?" That usually quiets them!