I have dreamt of becoming a chef for as long as I can remember, and my parents always encouraged my love for food. When I was in high school, I even talked to a recruiter from the Culinary Institute of America. I am not really sure why I decided against a career in food, but I’ve always loved cooking for my friends and for bigger events. I also love doing big events, so even while I was in the Air Force, I worked for a caterer as a server for special events. I also worked as a Food Service Officer, and I spent as much time getting in my staff’s way trying to help them with meal preparation as I did sitting in my grand office signing contracts. When we moved to Seattle, I had a brief stint as a hostess at a fine dining seafood restaurant, Seastar. There I found out that front of house management wasn’t my favorite cup of tea, because I kept longing to be in the back of the house, prepping and cooking. So, when doors opened recently for me to enroll in culinary school, I definitely jumped at the chance.
Over the summer, I’ve been writing and networking full time, preparing for school, and I pretty naturally find professionals in fields in which I would like to work and ask them questions. In June, Seattle’s quicky neighborhood Fremont hosted its annual Solstice Parade and Fair, Josh and I trekked to Fremont to check it out. In addition to the parade, there was a fair with all sorts of booths, including Sabra, a national brand of hummus. Sabra had a chef demonstration showing off the various applications of hummus that go beyond the pita bread. Naturally, I started chatting with the chef, who turned out to be a catering chef starting a new business in Bellevue.
Chef Hal Decker has been in the culinary industry for 30 years, ever since he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. He has worked in research positions and for hotels and large restaurants for his career, but he wasn’t boastful about his background. When he was finished with his work in Las Vegas, he and his wife moved to Seattle, and he began working on his next career plan: Master’s Touch Kitchen. His vision is to build the business into an elegant catering company that serves corporate events and other high end occasions. As we were discussing his vision, he asked me about mine, and I shared with him that I wanted to go to culinary school and become a chef. Almost immediately, he offered to apprentice me this summer and to begin investing time into the beginning of my education. Of course, I jumped at the chance.
I have never been an apprentice before, and I really thought that type of training was lost to technical programs and schools. There are individuals who work their ways through the chains of experience and rise to higher positions, but most of the research I’ve done has revealed that degrees are required now. So, it never occurred to me to really ask a chef if I could follow him or her and to glean from his or her knowledge and skills. Chef Decker has proved that some chefs, even highly educated ones, are willing to take on enthusiastic students who are willing to learn from them.