Take This Job and Love It

For these culinary creatives, quitting the daily grind was the right choice.

“There are no second acts in American lives,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, but dozens of chefs, winemakers, and food writers are proving him wrong.

If you’ve ever fantasized about quitting your day job and opening a restaurant, running a vineyard, or chronicling the lives of those in the thick of the culinary and wine worlds, there are others who have paved the way. Patricia Yeo, executive chef and co-owner of two NYC restaurants—Sapa and the newly renovated Monkey Bar at the Hotel Elysée—achieved a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Princeton and worked for the World Wildlife Fund cataloguing virgin forests in Malaysia before joining the profession.

Peter Endriss, head baker for Per Se and Bouchon-NYC, has a B.A. in natural resource sciences from Cornell, an M.A. in civil engineering from the Stevens Institute, and worked  for four years inspecting bridges and buildings before baking bread.

“Math is a big part of both professions,” he said.  “Bakers use percentages and numbers in their recipes—so do engineers.”

Danny Klein, former bass player for the J. Geils Band, now works as the pastry chef at Z Square, a new spot in Harvard Square.  After the band went off the road in 1982, he enrolled in culinary school. “I’m only good at two things,” he joked.  “Music and cooking—and I can’t make a living at either one.”

Jennifer Pelka, a private chef in NYC, received her B.A. from Stanford in the History of Science and Philosophy, and worked for two and a half years for a hedge fund before cooking full-time.

Andrew Carmellini, executive chef at A Voce and former chef of Café Boulud, is also a hip-hop musician currently recording his second CD.

Andrew Carmellini of A Voce; photo Emilie Baltz

In the wine world, the number of doctors who work with grapes is astounding: radiologist Peter Pratten of Capel Vale in South Africa; emergency medicine doctor Laura Catena of Bodega Catena Zapata in Argentina;  and GP Philip Norrie of Pendarves Estate in Australia.  It’s a tradition: Penfolds, Lindemans, and Angoves were all founded by MDs. And, according to Dr. Norrie, “Around 60% of all Australian wine is produced by estates established by doctors.”

But if you’d rather observe than participate, you can join food and wine writers: Robert Parker, Robert Finnegan and Jeffrey Steingarten (all lawyers), David Rosengarten (Ph.D. in dramatic literature), Ruth Reichl (M.A. in art history), Jonathan Hayes (physician and pathologist), or me (Ph.D. in clinical psychology).

 

Published on August 23, 2007
Topics: Chefs, Wine Industry, Winemakers


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