I asked 10 Los Angeles chefs, restaurateurs and food truck operators at LA Street Food Fest and out in the field variations on one question, What did you do for a living before starting your current role?. Their responses might surprise you.
Yes, nightclubs, and smaller restaurants in France, Paris and St. Tropez.
Alvin Cailan (Egg Slut LA)
Cooking in fine dining restaurants in Portland, Oregon [Ten 01] and L.A. [M.B. Post].
Johneric Concordia (The Park’s Finest)
I used to be a grunt for US Airways. I used to work on the tarmac, bringing planes in, and then I became a shop steward because of my background as a community organizer and activist. Before that, I was doing film, teaching youth how to do media arts projects, the skill set of using the technology to tell your story. So I did a lot of non-profit work for a long time. I guess the skill set, interacting and interfacing with people, came from that, and putting it with something I’ve always done anyway. We’ve always fed people and would stress out if you weren’t having a good time. It carried over.
Seafood distribution and imports. I was working for a big food corporation.
Brook Howell (Frysmith)
I was a magazine editor, and my husband, who’s the cook, used to cook in kitchens.
Edlyne Nicholas (Isla Cocina Pilipina)
High school English teacher.
Masa Ose (Pig’s Feet Under)
I am actually still doing it. I work full time as the Executive Chef of seafood restaurant in Beverly Hills. There are days that my partner & sous chef at the restaurant, Adriana, have worked close to 22 hours straight to be able to do both. Unfortunately my wife is in school and Adriana’s income also goes towards helping her family so we couldn’t leave just in case it didn’t work out. I guess it is a good thing since we haven’t paid ourselves a penny since the launching the truck. But it keeps us busy doing both, I think we have had 2 days off per person for the past 12-13 weeks and the only thing we do on our one day off is sleep the entire day.
Ernesto Reitich (El Pan-Americano)
I was an internet producer and worked for Yahoo and Fox, for the past 12 years.
George Wu (Waffles de Liege)
I was on my year off before applying to medical school when the opportunity to start Waffles de Liege arose. Lawrence [Tai] was working part-time at America’s Tire Co while preparing for the police academy.
Kris Yenbamroong (Night + Market)
I actually worked in photography before I decided to become a chef. I grew up in the restaurant. My family started the restaurant in ’82 because there were only three Thai restaurants in the whole of L.A. There was a big void, so they started it basically to fill that void. Because it was so intense, and they didn’t have any money, I never had a babysitter, so I grew up in the restaurant. That’s sort of where my culinary training or my background comes from. It was never a given, but I never wanted to be involved unless I had something to offer. Finally I felt like there was something I could bring to the table, and that’s why I did it.