Chef Stephen Moir has been the Culinary Instructor at Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools at Perth Amboy for 16 years while leading Ocean Beach Club as their Executive Chef. Prior to shifting majority of his attention to education he worked as the Executive Chef at II Giardino Sul Mare and Corporate Executive Chef for Deer Park Ravioli in New York.
If you could go back in time what advice would you give your younger self when starting in the industry? -Don’t chase the money at first, long term gain is what will sustain you -Learn to research the food you are cooking at a deeper level, understand it. I learned this lesson later than what I should have.
When you were building your career how limited were your resources? I paid for culinary school on my own with very limited resources and found mentorship within my culinary instructors at school. What I found helpful was being able to join the American Culinary Federation (ACF) which allowed me to belong to a professional Chefs association. The ACF guided me towards mentorships after school and assisted me until I was able to establish my own career.
Where do you focus your attention day-to-day regarding your business? As an Executive Chef, focusing daily on making sure my employees have the time, product, prep list and support needed to succeed. My focus is before the day starts, with proper planning that removes outside stressors. Looking back that was very hard working for someone who was not organized, made my job harder than it should have been.
What are key characteristics you look for in applicants when hiring? 1. Organization 2. Work ethic 3. Curiosity (Wanting to know more, everyday) Employees who are curious causes a Chef to know the product, menu, preparation better. I liked to be pushed 4. On Time 5. Professionally Dressed I can teach anyone to cook, bring those to the table and let me mold them. Missing any of the above makes it harder.
What change do you want to see in our industry? More apprenticeship opportunities, paid ones of course. Take the time under a Chef that can have you work various stations, especially the ones you hate. You need to learn as much as possible. They are out there, but most people chase the money right out of culinary school. A Chef who also knows pastry and a Pastry Chef that also knows savory will be more marketable and valuable. Become more adaptable, one positive outlook from Covid-19 are the Chefs and businesses that found ways to pivot. Being able to adapt will make them stronger when the industry comes back.
As a High School Culinary Educator, I have students for four years of high school. I bring them along to be able to work alone, work with a group, lead and follow. Chefs in the industry are always looking to find valuable employees, look back so you can move forward. Speak to the instructors, ask them who they would recommend. I know the ones who would be good dishwashers, prep cooks, line cooks etc. We would not recommend anyone who could not succeed, our names are on that recommendation. Plenty of times I have stated that no one could fit for certain positions. Find ones who have years in the industry, as with Chefs not all instructors are on the top of their game.
I do not preach one way to success, there is not only one school to attend or one direction for student to take. Not everyone can afford a $70,000 student loan or should have to. Schools could open doors, but actual talent and drive will keep you employed.
Enjoy the ride, don’t forget where you came, this will allow you to enjoy the future!
Visit Chef Moir's Perth Amboy Tech Culinary Website for further information and contact.
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