If leaders want to know how to successfully manage highly creative people in a chaotic environment with high stress, they should talk to a chef. Actually they should talk to former Jersey boy Jordan Shachter of Jordan’s Kitchen.
In the two courses I took with Chef Jordan, I was very impressed with the professionalism and the quality of his courses. As you know I never endorse things on my blog, but I can honestly tell you this was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in anyone’s kitchen. The classes are pretty affordable too.
Jordan wants cooking to be fun, unpretentious–and will always answer questions about fancy kitchen tools by saying “Don’t let Sur La Table fool you….” As someone who obsessively watches the Food Network and Iron Chef, Jordan helped demystify some of the wrong notions I have about the culinary world–largely created by TV.
Jordan creates all of his own menus–he also creates all of this own recipes. This is pretty ambitious considering how busy he is–with a newborn baby girl!
Jordan takes great care in the uniqueness and balance of the flavors. You wonder if he ever took some kind of Six Sigma or lean course–or studied Quality Assurance.
At any rate, I highly recommend Jordan’s class if you are looking to host a dinner party, do team building at your company, or are looking to learn some great new culinary techniques.
You will be delighted by the quality of the cooking, the class and the overall customer experience.
He took some time to answer a few of my questions. Photos are included below the interview.
Blake Landau: What inspired your career in culinary arts?
Jordan Shachter: My favorite courses in college were my Sustainable Ag. classes. By sophomore year I was working on organic and biodynamic farms. Growing food cultivated my love for cooking. I always had a sense that I wanted to “feed people.” After college I worked two front of the house gigs in nice restaurants for some extra income and liked the service end of things. In 2005 living in SF a friend (who was a local chef at the time) and I wrote a business plan to open a gourmet food truck. This was before the huge food truck craze but there was so much red tape that we dropped the idea. Too bad, we really would have nailed that trend…
Around this time I was cruising Craigslist for something (unclear what) and saw an add looking for a private chef. I though, Oh, I can do that and I replied. I interviewed, did a trial dinner and was hired instantly. He told his friends about me the very next week and within a month I had four new clients. just like that it was meant to be… The whole thing has unfolded very organically.
BL: What is the key to running a tight kitchen?
JS: Clarity, organization, integrity, high standards, focus and attention to every detail.
BL: What is the number one misconception about cooking?
JS: There are several misconceptions. What comes to my mind is: That you need a lot of tools, expensive equipment and years of training to be a good cook. Start with a sharp knife, a good pot or pan and the best ingredients you can buy (or harvest).Some fire wouldn’t hurt either.
The other misconception is that cooking is a glamorous profession. The celebrity chefs that you see on television have probably worked between ten and twenty years prior in kitchens, starting in the dish pit or picking parsley. Cooks work their asses off! the hours are long and unconventional> did I mention cooks work their asses off?
BL: Name your top three tools for being a good teacher for your courses?
JS: Top three tools:
1. It starts with customer service before anyone ever even steps foot into the kitchen. I’m always trying to create a very personal experience; food is love. I always refer to the students by their names, it helps to foster a real connection. People are shocked when I actually answer their phone calls or emails personally and promptly. But this allows me to connect with them before we even meet.
2. Humor. Be funny! I am anything but pc in my classes. I tend to curse a lot. I do this intentionally, it’s not just because I’m from Jersey… I find that it lightens the mood and reminds people that we are cooking because it’s fun. Kitchens are not stuffy places. Well, a few three stars are but that should not concern the home cooks that come through our door. I want people to feel relaxed. We can be ourselves, it’s easier to create better food (or better anything) from this place.
3. Be organized and mindful. I am managing a growing business. I’m also managing every cook/student in the class while making sure that we successfully execute very ambitious four course menus. I need the food to get cooked but I also need to be sure that everyone is participating, receiving my attention and having a good time.
BL: What are the five and ten year visions for Jordan’s Kitchen?
JS: The five year vision: I am in the process of developing a system at Jordan’s Kitchen that will enable me to hire other cooks and personalities to lead classes in the future. This system will clearly emphasize and teach our philosophy and style both with food and teaching. It will then be easier to train others to offer the same caliber of experience that I am able to under the Jordan’s Kitchen “umbrella”. It would be so great to offer more classes so we can connect with more home cooks and continue to build and strengthen our food community. But I am very clear that I am unwilling to grow at the expense of the class experience. They must remain intimate, extremely hands on and personal.
In ten years I hope I will be ready to shift the energy of Jordan’s Kitchen towards more charitable work. I envision a community soup kitchen to feed as many people in need as we can. It’s important to me to always give back. The courses made during my classes were [photos taken with my iphone]:
Classes and Photos A Ala Blake
CLASS 1 — “Delicious Desserts”
Profiteroles with coffee ice cream and chocolate sauce
Apple and pear tart with slivered almonds
Chocolate souffle with creme anglaise
[That’s me looking very happy–next to my new friend Mr. Souffle]
Mexican hot chocolate with chili and cinnamon
note: Grapefruit and tarragon sorbet and Meyer lemon sorbet not pictured
[I don’t have a photo–I guess I ate it too fast 🙂 sorry!
CLASS 2– “Spring’s Sprung”
Baby artichokes,Gioia burrata and black olive crostini
Monterey Bay squid, fingerling potatoes, arugula and salsa verde
Roasted organic chicken with asparagus two ways, puree and tips
& extra virgin olive oil cake with strawberry and rhubarb couli