Meet – Chef Gaby Chef
Chef Gaby grew up in the Auvergne region of France. When he was 12, he helped in a bakery, learning tricks and techniques to make pastries like croissants. At 16, he went to culinary school and graduated with honors. He then pursued a Masters in Culinary Arts.
After he graduated, he worked at La Tour d’Argent and Alain Ducasse, both Michelin star restaurants in Paris. Chef Gaby eventually came to San Francisco for a sous chef position at Bistro Clovis, where he became the Executive Chef a year later. He then decided to move to Supperclub where he was the Executive Chef for two years. Chef Gaby now teaches cooking classes at Kitchen on Fire, and is a private chef and cater for different occasions.
Why did you decide to go into this profession?
My parents, particularly my mother, were inspirational to me. She always bought her groceries from the farmer’s market and I watched her prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner for my family every day. I got my first cookbook at age 6 and I started to cook many things with my mother: jams, cakes, and savory dishes. On Sundays I would bake bread with my father. By age 12, I was working in a bakery and went to culinary school when I was 16.
Can you describe a typical day?
As a cook in a restaurant you start the day early at 7 or 8 a.m and work until 3 p.m. Typically you get a break between 3 p.m and 5:30 p.m. Then you resume working from 5:30p.m. until 1 a.m. For a beginner cook, you would be working on preparing cold foods. When you get more experience you can start cooking with heat and be responsible for side dishes, fish, grill and sauces. The more experienced cooks, called sous chefs, typically work at the meat station. The most experienced cook is called the executive chef. At the end of the day, everyone scrubs the kitchen clean.
What part of your work brings you the most joy?
Seeing the expressions of people eating what I cook brings me great joy. All the hard work pays off when someone tells you that something you made was the most delicious thing they’ve ever had.
Do you have a favorite food? What is it?
I really enjoy a well made beef bourguignon – the kind that takes 3 days to make with 24 hours just to make the stock.
What is the most important tool for you in the kitchen?
My chef’s knife! It is a 12” long knife (handle included).
What is the funniest moment you remember while working in the restaurant?
At the restaurant Alain Ducasse in Paris, around 180 lobsters would arrive every morning. One day I was working the lobster station and I heard a scream. I ran towards the scream to find a sous chef standing in front of the live lobster tank with a live lobster hanging from his gloved thumb. Somehow the lobster broke through the rubber band around his claw and pinched the poor man good. It was such a funny sight even the head chef was laughing.
Any words of advice for kids thinking about growing up to be a chef?
Don’t give up on tasting things that you didn’t like before. Did you know that the tongue evolves around every 7 years? I remember when I first tried oysters at six years old, I thought “Eww! Nasty!”. I tried them when I was 9 years old. Still nasty. I tried them when I was 12 years old. Still nasty. But then when I tried them at 14 years old, something changed, and I thought they were quite tasty when eaten with lemon juice drizzled on top. Now I love oysters.