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Chef Daniel Tederous: “You’re not going to come out of culinary school or step into a restaurant and become a chef overnight”

You’re not going to come out of culinary school or step into a restaurant and become a chef overnight. It’s a lot harder than people think. It takes a lot of work and commitment. Nowadays every channel you turn on there is a celebrity chef and people think to themselves, I can do that. But they’re […]

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You’re not going to come out of culinary school or step into a restaurant and become a chef overnight. It’s a lot harder than people think. It takes a lot of work and commitment. Nowadays every channel you turn on there is a celebrity chef and people think to themselves, I can do that. But they’re not seeing what it takes to get there. It takes time to get where you want to be as a chef. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Aspart of our series about the lessons from influential ‘TasteMakers’, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Chef Daniel Tederous. He brings over 20 years of culinary experience to the kitchen of Delmonico Steakhouse as Chef de Cuisine. His inspirations include Chef Emeril Lagasse whose shows he grew up watching on the Food Network, and Eric Ripert: chef and co-owner of Le Bernadin in New York. Tederous feels that Chef Emeril’s segments considerably expanded the Food Network to what it is today. Chef Ripert is a role model for Chef Tederous in pushing the needle with quality dishes in addition to a stellar dining experience.

Chef Tederous has honed his culinary skills to lower food costs while improving food quality. He has a knack for accentuating simple preparations with high-quality ingredients to balance flavors. Now he brings his knowledge and experience to the tables of Delmonico Steakhouse.

Tederous holds high standards and enjoys working alongside an honest and integritous team. As Chef de Cuisine at Delmonico Steakhouse, he aims to keep evolving the standard of the restaurant and maintain the level of excellence and consistency of all elements of experiences had by the guests.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know’ you a bit. Can you share with our readers a story about what inspired you to become a restauranteur or chef?

Iwent to the University of Georgia to pursue a degree in Business Communications. After I graduated, I moved back home to Marietta, Georgia and started working at a small BBQ joint while I figured out what I wanted to do. After a couple of years working there, I figured out that I was passionate about food and wanted to pursue a career as a chef right around the time that Food Network and celebrity chefs were starting to blow up. So I got a job at Nava which was a fine-dining southwestern restaurant outside of Atlanta. It’s no longer there anymore, but after a year and a half of working there, I knew that this was something I wanted to do. It just came naturally to me. Once I knew what I wanted to do, I was going to pursue culinary school but when I went to tell my chef that I was leaving, he offered to not only save me $40,000 but offered me a sous chef position at Nava and that was my first real chef job. From there I was able to work my way up the ladder and land myself where I am today as the Chef de Cuisine of Delmonico Steakhouse.

Do you have a specific type of food that you focus on? What was it that first drew you to cooking that type of food? Can you share a story about that with us?

My cooking styles have evolved throughout my career. Early in my career, I experimented with a lot of different ingredients while focusing on flavors and noting what worked and what didn’t. I’ve been at a steakhouse for 15 years of my career, so I naturally gravitate to that type of cuisine because I’ve worked with those ingredients so often. I love working with whole fish, grilling, roasting, steaming, and searing all types of steaks and seafood. When I was working in Hawaii I was working with a lot of seafood because it’s so fresh and sourced locally. One necessity for me is using quality and local ingredients.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you became a chef or restauranteur? What was the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

As serious as my job can be, I always try to keep it light-hearted and fun in the kitchen. It’s good to laugh with your team and be able to joke around. When I was a young cook just starting out, I remember getting whipped cream or clam juice thrown at you if you left early and that’s not something we allow here. You can still have fun and run a great operation while having a good relationship with everyone on your team and throughout the restaurant.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? How did you overcome this obstacle?

When I started in the restaurant business, celebrity chefs were the hot thing and everyone wanted to be like them. I learned quickly that it’s not as easy as they made it look. You have to work hard to get there and you have to put in what you want to get out of it. Unfortunately, you will miss a lot of things with friends and family when you’re working, but if you want to be successful in this business you have to put the work in. It’s not a job that you can work a few hours a day, it takes sacrifice and dedication.

In your experience, what is the key to creating a dish that customers are crazy about?

The key is keeping the food simple yet elegant. It’s always fun to play around with food and different flavors. If you use quality ingredients that guests can understand and not be intimidated by, you’ll successfully make a dish that guests are crazy about. Always ask yourself, will the guests that you’re creating this dish for be comfortable eating it?

Personally, what is the ‘perfect meal for you’?

Hawaiian Kampachi, which is Hawaiian yellowtail, would be my perfect meal. Nothing crazy, just the grilled fish cooked medium rare served with a simple arugula salad and some soy sauce. Nothing is better than a piece of fresh fish cooked properly

Where does your inspiration for creating come from? Is there something that you turn to for a daily creativity boost?

I read a lot of magazines, recipes, and menus. I look at what the current trends are, what people are doing and what they get excited over. By doing that, my creativity boost comes naturally. My team helps push me to come up with better ideas by allowing me to bounce ideas off them. With teamwork we can create something fantastic. I’m a big believer in sharing the knowledge that you have with those around you. I love what I do, cooking food and having the opportunity to create dishes for people.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? What impact do you think this will have?

We’re constantly working on additions for our menu, looking at what will work in our restaurant and what will sell. Every day we’re working with food and working towards making the restaurant the best it can be. If we continue to make excellent food with interesting flavor profiles that appeal to a wide audience, people will be more likely to talk about Delmonico Steakhouse. Word of mouth is so important, especially in the current climate.

What advice would you give to other chefs or restaurateurs to thrive and avoid burnout?

My biggest piece of advice is to know when you need a break and when it’s time to step away. Our industry isn’t always conducive to being able to take a break, but if you don’t you’ll regret it. It’s a grind so you need to just take a step back every now and then. Forget about work for a day or two. Find yourself and start again. Listen to your body and don’t push yourself to the point of no return. It’s okay to have your own life for a few days. Don’t call the restaurant every day. Go outside, enjoy the fresh air and rejuvenate.

Thank you for all that. Now we are ready for the main question of the interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started as a Restauranteur or Chef” and why? Please share a story or an example for each.

1. You’re going to miss a lot. A lot of birthdays, holidays, special events, etc. It’s just part of what we do and it’s a sacrifice that you have to make as a chef.

2. You’re not going to come out of culinary school or step into a restaurant and become a chef overnight. It’s a lot harder than people think. It takes a lot of work and commitment. Nowadays every channel you turn on there is a celebrity chef and people think to themselves, I can do that. But they’re not seeing what it takes to get there. It takes time to get where you want to be as a chef. It doesn’t happen overnight.

3. You’re going to bleed and get burned a lot. It’s just the nature of the business. You’re constantly working above hot flames and with sharp knives. The more skilled you become, the less you’ll get injured.

4. Perception vs. reality. You don’t make a lot of money when you start. It’s not all that it seems on television. It takes time to reach your goals.

5. Your friends and family don’t really understand what you do. You have to make a lot of sacrifices in this business to achieve your ultimate goal of becoming a chef. The chef I used to work for, he started working in his family’s restaurant and he fell in love with it. You fall in love with it and it’s a passion. Stay positive no matter what.

What’s the one dish people have to try if they visit your establishment?

When you stop by Delmonico Steakhouse, you most definitely have to try the bone-in ribeye. It’s dry-aged outside for 21 days. Ribeye is by far one of my favorite steaks. We serve it simply broiled and finished with maître d’ butter. Nothing super elegant or flashy, but the flavor is really unbelievable.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

If I could inspire a movement, it would be to implement cleaner eating across the country. Fast food joints are everywhere you look and has caused America to be the most obese country in the world. When you eat better, your body overall feels better. This is something that I try to implement with my own kids. I encourage them to try different foods and be open to eating more vegetables because that is what is good for them. I was raised to eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, and protein, but America has moved away from cleaner eating the past few decades with the rise of fast-food chains.

Thank you so much for these insights. This was very inspirational!

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