Describe your title and role.
What was your formal background and education?
What inspired you to pursue your career?
I changed track pretty soon after getting into the art world. I wanted to do something creative where I got to use my hands. I grew up cooking alongside my mother and grandmother so food was always part of the picture for me. It was a risk, I had never worked in a restaurant before but I am happy I did it, I haven’t looked back since.
What has been the most memorable or rewarding moment in your career thus far?
Taking this job. Looking back on that now, I am proud of myself for just getting on the airplane. It’s a very scary thing to travel to a different country where you hardly know anyone, cook for people that may or may not give you a job using ingredients you’ve never used before with equipment you’ve never seen before. I’ll never forget the moment after my tasting where they offered me the role and we immediately started to come up with the concept for the restaurant. It was thrilling.
What advice would you give someone following, or influenced, by your professional path?
Take the risks and be brave and humble at all times. I have found that simply putting yourself forward and “showing up” is half the battle. Even when you don’t believe in yourself, do it anyway. If there is somewhere in the world you want to work, go for it, write to them, call them, etc., be relentless. Also, really appreciate those early years in your career and try to learn and absorb as much as possible. You will never stop learning but you will develop habits in those early years that will shape the rest of your career. Make them good habits.
Can you share some of the challenges you’ve experienced along the way?
I think my biggest challenge thus far is myself. I am highly critical of everything that I do which is good but can also work against you. In my previous answer I said “even when you don’t believe in yourself, do it anyway”– I am constantly reminding myself of that. Another big one is being so far away from my family. Family is so important to me so constantly juggling my career with making enough time to support the people that I love, especially in a field that demands so many hours, is not easy. I often fail at that but I am learning to prioritize more. I also believe that my greatest challenges are yet to come. I know I will learn a lot about myself in the next few months and years which terrifies me and excites me.
How do you measure success?
Ultimately, if the guests are happy, the staff is inspired and the people we buy produce from are rewarded and recognized for their jobs then I will be happy and I will feel successful. I feel like this answer will change the longer I am doing this, probably becoming more simple.
Do you have a mentor or someone who has influenced you in your career?
Its more than a person it would be a place, Chez Panisse. The person who founded the place is Alice Waters and I do consider her a mentor. But I also worked with so many amazingly talented, kind, artistic people in that place that I consider it on the whole to have been the biggest influence on me. Not just as a chef, but as a person. However, the quality in Alice that I keep seeing time and time again in highly successful people is a relentless pursuit to be better and to do better every single day—no matter how successful they become. I see this in Justin Hemmes and many of the staff that drive Merivale, I know this quality has influenced me now more than ever.
How do you feel about the future of your industry?
I see it as an industry that will only continue to grow. Unfortunately that growth is directly linked to the amount of skilled people we can employ. Across the globe there is a shortage of people that want to work in this industry and yet more and more people wanting to dine out and new restaurants opening every day. I think we all need to take a good look at what we are doing and ask ourselves the hard questions. Are we talking enough about the positives? Are we inspiring and motivating young chefs, floor staff and perspective managers? Are we giving enough back to them? I love this industry and I’ve had a great experience getting to where I am now.
What words do you live by?
Make it happen, be present and be kind to others and to yourself.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Don’t know, I just need to get through the next 6 months firs!! I could have never imagined 10 years ago I would be in this place so how could I predict the next 10 years? I am along for the journey and we will see where it goes.
Would you do it all again?
100%. I might have made some different decisions but I would hope that I would have still ended up in the same place.
Follow Danielle on Instagram @daniellemariealvarez
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