We're taking a break from the bustling Phoenix restaurant scene this week to talk to Chef David Hall of Thyme for a Chef personal chef services. He share how he, a former engineer, got into the culinary world and explain what a personal chef really does.
Did you always know you wanted to be a chef?
Actually my background is in engineering. But I've always had a passion for food growing up and I did a fair amount of traveling. That was really my comfort away from home and having traveled around the world a lot, I took every opportunity to learn about different cuisines. I went to the little hole-in-the-wall, out of the way places to find out what the connection is between culture and food. Then a few years ago I got laid off from my job and I figured, you know, my kids are grown and gone and its now time for me to do what I want to do instead of what I have to do. So we started this business about three years ago and haven't looked back since.
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I've cooked since I was nine. Growing up my father was a schoolteacher and my mom was a bookkeeper so he got home before she did. Not wanting to eat dinner late, he would just start dinner. My first job out of school required me to travel a lot and I had a great boss that said, "While you're away from home, there's not a whole lot we can give you other than a good meal. So you've got a per diem for your meals and I want you to use all of it." I worked out of New York a lot so I would go into Manhattan a lot and I struck up a relationship with one of the chefs there. So when I would finish my job in the day, I would go cook with him at night and it was a fun experience--a very educational experience.
Why did you choose to be a personal chef rather then working in or opening a restaurant?
A personal chef is different than a line cook or a chef in a restaurant because you continually have to advertise and market yourself. The thing that I like is I like cooking something different pretty much every, single day. It forces you to be really creative. Plus, I like setting my own schedule and taking vacations, traveling whenever I want to and not being chained or married to a restaurant.
Besides your experience cooking in Manhattan, do you have any formal training?
I went to the Culinary Business Academy in New Mexico and they taught me how to do the business. The food was the easy part it was the business that was the challenging part. Growing up here in the southwest, Mexican Hispanic foods are second nature to me. Spanish food has similar trends to that, but occasionally I'll take classes to specifically go after learning types of cuisine. I took a course at the Culinary Institute of America up in St. Helena specifically in Asian cuisine and that covered Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese. And a lot of it is picking brains of people.
The main ingredient
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SHOW ME HOW
The main ingredient I cook with is passion. Even at home I threw out a whole rack of ribs because the smoke in my smoker, it got a little bit dried out and the flavor wasn't just right. My wife looked at me and said, "You're throwing those out?" And I said, "Yeah, it's not perfect. It's not right. It's got to be right." You have to really care about he food and care about the ingredients. The two things you have to respect are the customers and the ingredients. If you do that and you marry the two with passion, then you're good to go.
Want to know which renowned New York City chef was Chef Hall's mentor? Find out tomorrow--in Part Two of Chef Chat.