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Culinary Central

Chef Kristen Kish Interview

February 25, 2013 Le Cordon Bleu Chicago, Le Cordon Bleu 0 Comments

Success Stories

Kristen Kish

Graduate: 2006, Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago

Degree: Associate of Applied Science in Le Cordon Blue Culinary Arts

Current Position: Chef de Cuisine, Stir - Boston, MA and contestant on Bravo’s Top Chef: Seattle (Season 10)

Boston chef and reality TV star Kristen Kish shares her story of working her way to Top Chef stardom.

It only took Kristen Kish one year in college to learn that international business would be a miserable career choice for her. But it wasn’t Kristen that knew culinary school was the right choice. It was her mother that knew.

“My mom laid it out flat. She said, ‘you love Chicago, and you love to cook.’ My mom knew what would make me happy before I knew.”

At that point a confident 19-year-old Kristen enrolled at The Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago (now known as Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago). Kristen explained that while the chef instructors were incredible and held up the school’s reputation, her confidence did not hold up.

Leave your ego at the door.

“I walked into culinary school thinking I knew all there was to know,” Kristen said. “But that 101 class was a very real time for me. I was like, ‘oh, this is how you use a knife!’”

Kristen went on to say that culinary school not only taught her the fundamentals, but truly helped her to progress in her career. But before she could do that she had some more hard lessons to learn.

“It was a harsh reality stepping into the professional world,” she said. “I was going for the big jobs with the big money, and it wasn’t working out. For a second I gave up.”

But Kristen didn’t give up for long. She followed the advice of Michael Garbin of the Union League Club of Chicago, where she completed her externship, and headed to Boston to gain more restaurant experience.

With knife skills and realistic expectations in hand, Kristen moved to Boston.

It took a year before Kristen felt settled in Boston. “I hated it at first, but then I made friends and found work I enjoyed and things changed.”

Kristen currently works as a Chef de Cuisine at the Barbara Lynch restaurant, Stir. Stir is not your typical restaurant. It’s a “demonstration kitchen and cookbook store” where guests watch the chef prepare the meal before them -- a dining experience of a five-course menu with wine pairings.

At Stir Kristen is able to cook and interact with guests daily, something she thinks is an incredibly important step in any cook’s learning process.

“When I worked in the back I never met guests or got feedback, which are huge. Guests are the ones sustaining my career. At Stir, I get to meet people, hear about their lives and relationship with food, and get to educate and inspire them.

“Plus, when you work in front of guests there seems to be more pressure to be even more professional. When you’re out in front in an open kitchen, there’s a whole other level of learning.”

On chasing the Top Chef adrenaline rush.

Boston Restaurateur Barbara Lynch is more than Kristen’s boss. She’s also made an appearance as a guest master chef to Season 9 Top Chef winner Paul Qui. Barbara encouraged Kristen to try out for Season 10.

Kristen was very successful on the show and is grateful for the experience. When asked if she would do the show again, she responded with a resounding “yes.”

“The biggest thing I learned on Top Chef was not about food, but about who I am as a chef and more importantly a person,” she explained. “Turns out I’m even more of a competitive person, at least with myself. I like to prove what it is I can do, and I like the rush of the whole thing.”

Kristen said that there’s no comparing the adrenaline rush you get while cooking on Top Chef to the adrenaline rush you get while working in a restaurant kitchen. “The feeling you get when competing on Top Chef is a once in a lifetime feeling. There’s nothing like it. I crave new things and Top Chef filled my need for excitement at that point in my life.”

Kristen plans to continue working for Barbara Lynch and taking her career one step at a time. Learn more about Kristen by following her on Twitter—@KristenLKish.

Career success will depend largely on the effort put into studies, job search efforts, experience and attitude.

 

Chef Kristen Kish

TOP CHEF -- Season 10 -- Pictured: Kristen Kish -- (Photo by: Matthias Clamer/Bravo) 2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

 

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