Paul Nagan, exec chef of Zink Kitchen + Bar, reveals his top ten pet peeves
What's never in your kitchen? Attitude. I have a great staff, and many of them have been here since we opened in 2007. A few of us worked together previously, so we're a tight-knit group. Everyone takes a lot of pride in what they do, and while they're confident, they're not cocky. We try to hire people with similar traits, but once in a while someone comes in thinking they already know everything there is to know and are better than the rest of us. They get ostracized pretty quickly and don't last long.
What's always in your kitchen? Teamwork. Working in a hotel is a different animal every day. One day we might be getting crushed in the restaurant, and the next day, we're doing banquets for 600 -- and on some days, it's both. We're not compartmentalized: Everyone has a role and a position, but that can change several times a day. Everyone is expected to jump in and help where and when they're needed. It's nice to know that someone's always got your back, and since every day is different, it keeps things interesting.
Craziest night in the kitchen: I was working at the San Mateo Marriott outside of San Francisco, and we had a three-day "Con" convention at the hotel -- the type of gathering were everyone dresses up and acts out their favorite fictional character. There were the medieval types that made their own armor, swords and such; the Star Trek-alien types; and the Japanese anime types -- and there were probably about 600 to 700 of them total. They were there for three days and they had no catered food, so they pretty much just killed us in the restaurant all day, every day. There were guys stabbing their steaks with swords and eating them like shish kabobs while yelling "Fetch me another beer, wench!" There were people pecking at their food with no hands making weird bird squawks, and we had people trying to order in languages that didn't exist -- or maybe it was Klingon. It was ridiculous.
If you hadn't become a chef, what would you be doing right now? I graduated college with a degree in economics and business. It was 1992 and the job market was bleak, and I didn't have any luck finding a real job, so I spent some time contemplating what I was going to do with my life. I woke up one morning and realized how much I love to cook, so why not be a chef? That's literally how it happened. I went and got a job as a cook and never looked back. There are times when I think some other guy has a lot more free time, or that person makes a lot more money than me, but in the end, I love what I do. I can't imagine doing anything different. I'll always be cooking and creating in some fashion.