In February, ICE student Richard Chan competed in the tenth annual S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition. Though he didn’t take home the top prize, we are still incredibly proud of the dish he created and how he cooked at the competition. We wanted to tell you some more about him and how he developed his passion for food. Now on his externship at Eleven Madison Park, he’s an incredible example of how following your passion can lead to a whole new career in the culinary arts.

Why did you enter the S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition?
I entered the competition because I want to test my culinary skills in a highly competitive setting with other chefs to continue to grow my culinary skills. You are only as good as your last dish so you have to continue moving. Ultimately it helps not only in your culinary skills but development in your character.

Why do you think you should be the next the S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef?
I want to be the next S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef because I have the love, the passion and the drive for food. I also always want to continue to learn and strive to be better because in the culinary world what is popular today is already in the past tomorrow.

How do you feel about cooking for chef and media judges?
I think it is absolutely nerve-wracking but highly rewarding to be able to have chefs and the media critique my work. Many people do not get an opportunity to receive such valuable constructive criticism. I am anxious but motivated as well. I plan to do my best and hopefully make a dish that the chefs and judges would enjoy. No matter what, I will stand behind my dish with confidence.

What is your culinary point of view and how did you come up with it?
My culinary point of view is to keep it fresh and clean and cook from the heart. My culinary point of view was developed through my father. He is also a Chef and ever since I was young that is what he always tried to teach me this about food, though he didn’t want me to follow in his footsteps.

What is your culinary experience in the industry to date? How has this affected your culinary point of view?
I have worked at a variety of institutions including Silk Road Mocha, DC’s Pizzeria, Club Metropolitan, Great Performances and I have volunteered at the James Beard Foundation. Being able to work in all these different places has provided me with a variety of knowledge in this industry which I would want to continue to grow as I continue to work in this field.

What are your favorite restaurant and cookbook? And why?
My favorite restaurant is Degustation Food and Wine Bar because it’s simple yet elegant food that is prepared in a minimalist environment. My favorite cookbook is The French Laundry Cookbook, because I admire Thomas Keller’s philosophy and respect for food, as well as his approach to food. It’s just an incredible book.

If you weren’t going to be a chef, what would you be?
If I didn’t choose a culinary path, I would have continued down the path to becoming a financial analyst in the corporate world. I would have made more money, but it would have been far less rewarding. It definitely would not have been a job I wanted to wake up for everyday.

What would you eat for your last meal on earth?
This is such a tough question because I am a glutton for food, but if I had to choose my last meal on earth would consist of sushi from Sushi Yasuda, my grandmother’s soy sauce chicken and a bowl of instant ramen with a fried egg and Chinese sausage made by my girlfriend. The last two dishes have always been there for me during rough patches in my life.

What ingredient do you absolutely hate? Why?
I absolutely hate raw celery. I did not eat the classic peanut butter and celery growing up. Oddly enough, I was envious of kids that did since I thought it was an American thing to do. However, upon my first taste, I was immediately put off. Although, I do enjoy it when it is cooked.

Which chef do you admire most, and why?
I admire Thomas Keller because his approach to cooking really resonates with me. As I mentioned before, Chef Keller’s French Laundry Cookbook is my favorite. It changed my whole vision of what food can be. His food just keeps you wanting more — to get lost in an experience invoking a variety of emotions based on a meal.

What life lessons have you learned in the kitchen?
I have learned to be cautious of everything I approach because it might burn. I have burned myself in the kitchen more times than I can count. I’ve learned to be cautious but not scared. I take that approach in my life.

If you could use a quote to describe yourself, what would it be?
My quote would be “I am always a student and will strive to always learn”. I have always been an inquisitive person, but this quote thought really stuck with me after hearing an interview by my favorite dance group. They were at the top of their game but were always preaching how there is always more to learn. I strive to stay humble and keep growing.

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