We know: You went to culinary school hoping to woo ladiez (or dudez) with your chef skillz, didn’t you? Unfortunately, now you’ve graduated, and all you have is a job where you bust your ass on the line only to hang up your Crocs and pass out on your couch, Tindr still open on your cell phone, Top Chef reruns playing on TV, and nary a drink invitation in sight. Cheer up: There’s no guaranteed way to net and attain a legion of gastronomic fanboys and girls, but there are a few things new kitchen artists can do to help their chances of commanding the allegiance of the fooderati. Here are 10 ways to become a NYC bad boy (or girl).
10. Open your first restaurant in a place that is sketchy
Call it Roberta’s Syndrome, but it seems that picking a gritty area for your charming offbeat concept is practically required if you want to hit a home run. Perhaps it bumps up guest perceptions: By the time they actually walk through the doors, they’re overwhelmed with relief that they’ve made it. If you’re forced to traverse an industrial wasteland before settling down for homemade mozzarella, that cheese is going to blow your mind.
9. Spend time cooking abroad — bonus points for winning the approval of the locals
Ivan Orkin and Andy Ricker are two prime examples of people who went to a foreign land and are now crushing it in the food world. Yes, it’s great to hear about a formally trained graduate kicking ass in fine dining institutions, but current food culture embraces the exotic. And going outside the traditional schools of cooking is easier to do in countries that aren’t France or the United States. If all else fails, you can still talk about your time in the Ghanian wilds with the smug superiority of an exceptionally cultured individual.
8. Get a beard and forearm tattoo
Chefs should be judged by the decisions they make in the walk-in fridge and not the walk-in closet, but proclaiming your love for pork, carrots, salt, or foie gras by making a permanent alteration to your body establishes that you’re drop dead serious about your craft. And why have a butchery chart on your wall when you can have it on your chest?
7. Wear a bandanna when being interviewed
Hairnets and toques are a thing of the past, unless you’re working a thankless fast food job or in some uptight French kitchen. The bandanna signifies that you care about not getting hair in the food you’re making, but that you’re cooler than those white tablecloth kitchen magicians uptown.
6. Make your restaurant Cash Only
Sure, this’ll annoy the corporate types who want to charge the company Amex, but you’ll be ensured a legion of diners who live to drop phrases like “I mean, it’s cash only, but it’s totally worth it” into conversations with friends (it’s a status symbol, see). And hey, a passionate customer base is essential to success.
5. Have at least one awesome vegetable dish on the list…
While very few of us have gone vegan in the past couple of years, most of us have become flexitarian gourmands. And as the era of pork dwindles, being able to make vegetables really tasty can kick start a career — and it makes you look sensitive, too.
4. …but also love meat so much that you splash your nose-to-tail endeavors all over social media
It’s nice to reminded humans are still atop the food chain. We’re also sentient beings who love delicious animal fat, but a lot of us are into, you know, the environment and stuff, too. Showcasing your knife skills and ability to use all parts of the pig will get you more than just likes and retweets — it’ll likely gain you a flesh-loving entourage.
3. Forage on your day off
If spending a majority of your time in a windowless kitchen doesn’t make you want to connect with nature as much as you can, consider the fact that diners love a good foraging story. Woo the pretty one in the corner by delivering a dish with a side of thoughtful discourse on, uh, hyperlocal terrain.
2. Put at least one high brow/low brow item on your menu — but don’t overdo it
The line between genius and Guy Fieri is finer than you’d think, so don’t go overboard on the hybrid dishes. Foie gras filled donuts and caviar topped pizzas might draw a crowd, but if you have a menu made up entirely of wacky combos, you might as well develop a competing recipe for donkey sauce.
1. Avoid cooking shows — unless you’re sure you’re not going to look like a total asshole
Television can help put a chef on the map, but it also has the potential to set you up to be perceived as a fame whore who can’t really cook. Sure, Harold Dieterle turned his Top Chef season one win into three well-received Manhattan restaurants, but that was before we were inundated with exasperating cooking challenges and obnoxious celebrity “chefs” who’d be fine with never getting behind the burners again. If you must do TV, do everything you can to win without looking like a total asshole. No one likes dining in the house of a loser.