Daniel Ramirez, exec chef of Gaetano's, on chicken, checks and culinary schools
Most humbling moment as a chef: When I first came to this country from Mexico, I was working in a restaurant, and a customer asked me for the check. I didn't speak any English, but I tried really hard to remember the word "check" so I could tell the server. But when I passed along the information, I ended up saying, "The customer wants chicken." It all got very confusing, but looking back on it makes me realize just how far I've come.
Describe the biggest challenges facing today's chefs: The young people coming into the kitchen these days don't have much talent and seem to think that being a chef is an easy lifestyle. At culinary school, they're learning about techniques and the health-department rules, but they're not being taught about the pressures you feel on the line. It's a hard career, and you give your life to it. I think the biggest challenge is finding the right people, with the most talent, who are willing to dedicate their days, and most of their nights, to their craft.
If you hadn't become a chef, what would you be doing right now? I think I'd be an architect. I've always liked to design things, and I studied architecture in Mexico before arriving in this country. Being able to create things has always been very engaging to me, and there's similarity between building a new dish and designing a building.
What's next for you? I haven't been at Gaetano's for very long, so I'm still getting settled in, but making the very best food I can is my top priority. I'm looking forward to adding some of my favorite dishes to the menu and refining some of the dishes that Gaetano's has long been known for.