Q & A with Eric Greenspan, Part 2: Culinary School or Not Culinary School, Etc. | Squid Ink | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Q & A with Eric Greenspan, Part 2: Culinary School or Not Culinary School, Etc.

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Thu, Apr 21, 2011 at 10:00 AM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY FELICIA FRIESEMA.
  • Photo by Felicia Friesema.
In Part 1 of our interview with Eric Greenspan, we discovered that The Foundry on Melrose is somehow a tight ship and a wild ride at the same time. The chef waxed poetic (and, well, dropped a lot of f-bombs) as he discussed the challenges of owning a restaurant, the real story behind his winning grilled cheese recipe, and why placenta chairs may be the next big thing. (You had to be there.) In Part 2, he gives us his opinion of the culinary school controversy, as well as shows us why he's a real 'OG' chef.

We also learned that if you're attending the Grilled Cheese Invitational this Saturday, you will likely catch a glimpse of Greenspan not only competing, but running in a nacho cheese dunk tank for charity as well.

Turn the page to read the rest of the interview, and check back tomorrow for Greenspan's recipe for "The Champ."

Squid Ink: With the advent of the 'cheflebrity,' do you think the industry is at risk of getting invaded by a bunch of Paris Hilton-type chefs?

Eric Greenspan: That's like saying, 'Is Green Day punk?' Did Green Day bring a lot of people into the punk rock world and did people enjoy whatever it is that they do? Sure. I'm definitely not a territorial chef who's like, 'This is our world! Leave us alone!' People like shit. I think it only helps. Getting people into food, that excitement, recognizing that there's an entertainment value to going out to dinner is awesome.

The bigger concern is, I think that a lot of people now try to go into this world -- it's like those busloads of people who get off at the Greyhound station in Hollywood. Chicks from fucking Nebraska that are like 'I'm gonna be the next Marilyn fucking Monroe.' Well, there was only one Marilyn Monroe out of the thousands and thousands and thousands.

I look back -- I worked in some amazing kitchens. In some of the best kitchens in the world, and there were 15 cooks in every one of those kitchens. I wasn't the best one out of all of them, in any of them. Maybe one or two of those guys that I worked with, maybe three, are 'chefs.' So even in that hyper world of people who are extremely dedicated to their craft, only a few of those people make it.

I feel bad for the people that go to culinary school and think they're going to be fucking Emeril Lagasse.

SI: What's your opinion about the class action lawsuit against Le Cordon Bleu? You went to culinary school -- but you also started out as a dishwasher and worked your way up. What do you think about those students who feel they've been mislead into thinking culinary school was their straight ticket to the position of chef?

EG: Look, Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, any of those people, they didn't just come out of school and become who they are. They worked their asses off. I got my first executive chef job at 27. Fortuitous. I'm 35-years-old and I've owned my own restaurant for 4 years now. I'm kind of ahead of the age curve I'd say, but still, I don't think it can take away from the fact that I've worked my fucking ass off. I've been working since I was 17-years-old, everyday, fucking 14 hours a day, put myself through hell and high water, no money, working my ass off to try to become who I want to be. Anybody who thinks you can just go to school and become that? Well, why the fuck wouldn't I have done it that way?

I used to teach at a culinary school, Kitchen Academy Hollywood, and I just did a TV show with a girl, she was my pastry chef on the show that was filmed, and she said that I spoke at her graduation. And I didn't remember doing this, but she said I basically got up there and was like, 'So. You think you all are chefs, huh? None of you are chefs. I know you think you're chefs, I know you went to culinary school and you figured I'm gonna go to culinary school and be a chef. You're not chefs. You're not even close to chefs.'

I get it. Culinary schools are fucking robbing people blind. That you pay law school prices for a fucking minimum wage job is retarded. Don't go to culinary school. Find a chef who's willing to hire you for minimum wage, and get your ass kicked. In two years you're going to learn more than you'd learn in school, and you can get paid for it.

SI: So you think it is possible to not even go to culinary school and still be a success?

EG: I've looked through my 'atelier,' shall we say, of staff who have come up through me, I don't think any one of them went to culinary school.

SI: And you don't care?

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