When ICE President Rick Smilow and Anne E. McBride wrote Culinary Careers: How to Get Your Dream Job in Food they discovered a plethora of food jobs they had never heard of before. Since the book’s release, they have been discovering even more interesting career paths in the food world. DICED shares some of them with you in a reoccurring feature, “Unique Culinary Careers.”
Imagine being responsible for six fine-dining restaurants spread throughout the country and supervising the food put out under the name of one of the country’s most famous chefs. Think you could handle it? That’s just what Renee Forsberg does as Culinary Director to Bobby Flay. She manages all of his restaurants, including Bar Americain in NYC, Bobby Flay Steak in Atlantic City and Mesa Grill in NYC, Las Vegas and The Bahamas, as well as being part of the opening team of the fast casual restaurant chain Bobby’s Burger Place. After graduating from ICE’s Culinary Arts program in 2002, Renee worked her way through the ranks to be promoted to her current position in 2007. It’s a busy job with all sorts of projects — changing menus, hiring chefs, opening restaurants, planning events and anything else that needs to be done. You may have seen her as Flay’s Sous Chef on episodes of Iron Chef America. We managed to catch her just finishing up taping episodes for the next season and sat down to ask her about her job, why she loves it and her advice for would-be chefs.
How would you describe your job?
I oversee all of Bobby’s restaurants. Everything from food purchasing to hiring chefs funnels through me. I work on menu changes, recipe development, scheduling, costs and anything else that needs my attention. I am in constant communication with the executive chefs of all of Bobby’s restaurants. Some days I am a chef, others I am an administrator or manager. I’m based in NYC so I always try to work a lunch shift in Mesa Grill or Bar American, and the dinner shift in the other. I’m always working hands-on with the line chefs to make sure everything is consistent in all the restaurants.
How did you get this job?
I’ve been with Bobby since the beginning of my career. I went to work at Bolo right out of school. A classmate of mine was working in the kitchen and suggested I look into getting an externship there. After working there, I went to Las Vegas to be a Sous Chef in Mesa Grill when in opened in Caesar’s Palace. I was there for three years before Bobby promoted me to my current position.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Cooking. I find when I’m in the office doing administrative work it can be pretty stressful, but the instant I put on my whites I am relaxed. Managing others and getting them to follow through can be a challenge, but I am always happy to be in the kitchen.
Do you have any advice for others hoping to break into the industry?
Since I’ve been managing staff, I believe more and more that everyone needs to start out at the bottom. You should start at the salad station and work your way up. Don’t think you know everything. Stay focused and open-minded so you learn everything you possibly can from those around you.
Interested in starting your own unique culinary career? Pick up a copy of Culinary Careers and get started now.