Laurent Tourondel, Josh Capon, Dale Talde, and Alex Guarnaschelli Discuss Balance, Mistakes, and Opening in Miami at South Beach Wine & Food 2015
Arthur Bovino

Laurent Tourondel, Josh Capon, Dale Talde, and Alex Guarnaschelli Discuss Balance, Mistakes, and Opening in Miami at South Beach Wine & Food 2015

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Laurent Tourondel, Josh Capon, Dale Talde, and Alex Guarnaschelli Discuss Balance, Mistakes, and Opening in Miami at South...

The uncharacteristically chilly weather meant a change of venue for the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival trade talks: from the rooftop of The Betsy downstairs to its stylish, velvet banquette-lined lounge. But there was nothing cold about the panelists. Founder and president of Bullfrog & Baum, Jennifer Baum led an open-ended discussion with chefs Laurent Tourondel (co-founder of the now-split BLT empire), five-time Burger Bash champion chef Josh Capon of  Burger & Barrel and Lure Fishbar, Food Network Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli and Brooklyn-based Dale Talde of Pork Slope and Talde (who now has a Talde in Jersey City and is opening one in Miami this summer). It was warm and open, and very funny. Topics ranged from where they thought their careers would go when they first started, failures, successes, advice on opening a restaurant in Miami, and chef Guarnaschelli teasing, "I am going to open another restaurant, but I can’t talk about it yet." Check out some excerpts from one of this year's trade panels.

On whether she thought as a culinary school student that her career as it is now would have been a possibility…
Alex Guarnaschelli: “No. I picked a job where I thought I wouldn’t have to be agreeable for more than two hours in a row. Restaurants are a really great place to hide. “

On how difficult his initial training was when he first started breaking in…
Laurent Tourondel: “It was rough. We would be training in the winter, during game season we would start at 6 a.m. and finish at 11 p.m. It was rough training for 10 years.“

On why he got into cooking and how he became successful…
Dale Talde: “I had to stop a lot of really bad habits before I became a passable cook. I started cooking to party. I liked being able to sleep into until noon and not have to be in at work by one. When I stopped partying, and when I stopped smoking weed before I went in to work, that’s when I started to become a passable cook. I wasn’t self-motivated. No. My chef sat me down and said, ‘You are high.’ And I said, ‘Yes, I am.’ I was in garde manger for two years, and I finally asked, ‘Why can’t I be one of the fish cooks?’ ‘Because you suck,’ they said. ‘Get serious or stop cooking.’ So I got serious.“
Josh Capon: “I attended the University of Maryland. I went to college for two years, and it was fun. I partied. I didn’t start as early as Dale – I waited until 5 p.m. But I wasn’t getting very much out of it. And my parents pointed out that every job I had had since I was 13 or 14 had to do with food. And I’d like to say that I was very mature and I made this decision all by myself, but my parents picked me up and took me for a tour at Johnson & Wales, and two more years in college was going to get me nowhere. So I started as a dishwasher, and then became a line cook, and I kind of never looked back.”

On maintaining balance…
Josh: “Be in whatever what you do. My wife says, ‘As little time as you spend when you are home, you make more of it than probably most men who spend more time at home.’ The thing about cooking is that the kids really get it. And they can be involved in it. They’re more able to relate to it.”
Laurent: “I don’t have a normal life.”
Dale: “For me, something always breaks and then I have to give up something else. I always push it to the extreme and then I go “Okay.”

On working with colleagues, partners, and other cooks…
Alex: “I only have one restaurant. My goal is zero. Funny right? It’s also true. I have just one restaurant, with the same staff that has been cooking together for a long time. And I see a group of people who like each other a lot. One day I came into the kitchen before service and everything was fine, all the cucumbers were diced, and I left the kitchen to go check on something and when I came back, everyone was cutting furiously. And I asked what had happened, but nobody would answer. So I asked the pastry cook, but nobody wanted to answer. Finally, someone told me that a glass had broken into all of the prep, and they had to throw it all out and start it all over right before service. And nobody wanted to say who had done it so they all just came together to help out. And I was like, ‘You guys need to get things under control!’ And then I was just all, ‘Aw, you guys! I love you!”
Josh: ‘I spend more time with my staff than my family so there has to be a trust factor. And I say we work together, not that people work for me because everybody is making a lot of sacrifices. And a lot of the cooks who work for me, they’re young kids. And I ask them, ‘What do you want to do?’ And they say, ‘I want to do this.’ And I ask, ‘But what do you really want to do?’ And they say, ‘Oh, I want to be a writer, or an actor, or a musician.’ And I say, ‘That’s great, but this is what I do. So I need you to respect that and respect the work you do here too.’ And then I delegate and empower people. Because my biggest struggle is not being able to be everywhere.”A lot of the cooks who work for me, they’re young kids. And I ask them, ‘What do you want to do?’ And they say, ‘I want to do this.’ And I ask, ‘But what do you really want to do?’ And they say, ‘Oh, I want to be a writer, or an actor, or a musician.’ And I say, ‘That’s great, but this is what I do. So I need you to respect that and respect the work you do here too.’ — chef Josh Capon
Dale: “You love your people, but when you fight you have to be able to get it out. You have to be able to say, ‘I disagree with that thing that you did,’ or ‘that wasn’t the correct decision.’ And then when things start to get loud, we need to bring the volume of this discussion down. You have healthy fights.”

On having partners…
Dale: “With the new restaurant in Jersey City we brought on a new partner. And for a while at the beginning it was difficult to adjust. Before, we were the decision-makers. And now, well I don’t deal with design. I know what I do well. I cook. David does service, John does the bar, and when we added another partner he was now the design element of this project. My two business partners lost part of their control. But we were like, ‘Hey, he’s on TV for design. Why don’t we trust his aesthetic?’”
Laurent: “I’ve worked on lots of different projects and with all different kinds of partners and it’s not always easy. The key to a successful partnership is to know who is doing what, who is making the decisions. The worst partner you can have is someone who doesn’t know the business and is involved everyday. Everybody has a role and has a job to do.”

 

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