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Hansel Bailey on Following Your Dreams and What it’s Like to be a Professional Chef

Hansel Bailey is a professional chef. As a talented, self-taught young chef with a love for all types of cuisine, Hansel received a full scholarship to one of the best culinary schools in the United States. Although Hansel Bailey found that he had an innate talent in the kitchen, he worked hard to learn the […]

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Handsome young African chef standing in professional kitchen in restaurant preparing a meal of meat and cheese vegetables. Portrait of man in cook uniform Cuts meat with a metal knife.
Handsome young African chef standing in professional kitchen in restaurant preparing a meal of meat and cheese vegetables. Portrait of man in cook uniform Cuts meat with a metal knife.

Hansel Bailey is a professional chef. As a talented, self-taught young chef with a love for all types of cuisine, Hansel received a full scholarship to one of the best culinary schools in the United States.

Although Hansel Bailey found that he had an innate talent in the kitchen, he worked hard to learn the theories and techniques behind cooking while at culinary school. After graduating from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, Hansel returned home to Newport Beach, California. For the next several years, he worked at various restaurants in Newport Beach and Los Angeles.

After gaining this valuable experience and quickly becoming one of the top chefs in his area, Hansel Bailey was invited by several restauranteurs to work at some of the finest restaurants in the country. As a result, Chef Hansel traveled around the United States, working in numerous kitchens. During this time, he gained extensive experience with all types of cuisine and styles of cooking.

Currently, Hansel lives in Newport Beach and works as a culinary consultant. He helps other chefs and restauranteurs develop their menus and locales. Whether you’re looking for quality fine dining or a hearty homestyle meal, Hansel Bailey can cook up the perfect dish or menu!

Tell us a little about your industry and why you chose to become a professional chef.

The culinary industry is one of the most exciting, in my opinion. There are so many aspects to being a professional chef that a lot of people don’t think about. And that’s what I love about the job. Not only do I get to create amazing food — which is what I love to do — but I also get to manage a kitchen, select ingredients, mingle with clients and customers, and experiment with new flavors and techniques. I remember when I was young, my mom used to watch a lot of cooking shows. I would sit and watch them too. Then, I would beg her to take me to the kitchen to try and recreate what the chefs had made. It didn’t always turn out great, but we had fun doing it. This is where my love for cooking came from. After a while of doing this, it became apparent that I was quite talented in the kitchen as well. As I got more comfortable with food and flavors, I started to experiment. My grandma would come over and I would make her something that I had dreamed up. She started telling me that I should be a chef when I grew up. From the first time she said that to me I knew that I wanted to be a professional chef.

What surprised you the most when you started your career, what lessons did you learn?

What surprised me the most was when I went to culinary school — the very first day I was shocked by the amount of theory and technical skills we were required to learn. Cooking at home had come so naturally to me — I thought all chefs were just born with a gift. But there were so many techniques we had to learn and a lot of history as well. From that, I determined that anyone could be a chef if they really wanted. I think that was a great lesson for me. Once I realized it wasn’t just people who were gifted in the kitchen that could be successful chefs, it lit a fire under me to work and study hard so that I could be the best.

What is one piece of advice you would give someone starting in your industry?

I would advise anyone starting in this industry to practice. Practice, practice, and practice some more. Practice cooking for your family. Practice for your friends. Whenever you can, get in the kitchen and practice your cooking. That really is what sets a good chef apart from a great chef. On the business side of things, I would also advise newcomers that this is no easy job. It’s not like what you see on tv. There are so many additional aspects like I mentioned before. You have to cook, clean, manage and provide customer service. It’s the ultimate all-in-one position, being a chef, and you need to be ready for that.

If you could change anything about your industry what would it be and why?

If I could change anything, I would make the industry more accessible. I was privileged enough to get a scholarship to one of the best culinary schools in the United States which opened many doors for me. However, I know that there are many great chefs out there that can’t afford to go to a school like that. So, if I could, I would make it so that everyone is able to have the opportunity to experience this type of schooling — if they want. As long as they are willing to work hard and do their best.

How do you maintain a solid work-life balance?

I love to cook. Cooking is my life. So, it never really feels like I’m missing out on things when I’m at work. Even when I am with friends and family, I’m normally cooking for them. That being said, I do make sure that I go for a run every morning and that I take at least one day each week to do something outside of work. Often this means going out for the day and ending up at a new or popular restaurant for dinner. I like to check out new places because it gives me ideas for my own work.

What is one piece of technology that helps you the most in your daily routine?

My iPhone. My phone is my lifeline. I have my entire schedule in there, alarms for different purposes, I even pay for most things with my phone. I can’t imagine what I would do without it. My day would be a complete mess.

What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?

The hardest obstacle that I’ve faced so far has been deciding where to work. There are so many great restaurants across this country. So many great types of cuisine. What made it hard was that I love them all. All the flavors, all types of dishes, and styles of cooking. So, when I started getting invited to work at different restaurants, it was difficult to decide which to choose. I didn’t know what would be best for my career or if I wanted to focus on a certain type of cuisine. Eventually, I just decided to try and take as many offers as I could. It turned out to be a great decision. I learned something meaningful from every kitchen I worked in. And, I think my eclectic background helps me stand out today as a professional chef.

Who has been a role model to you and why?

My mom. She was the one who got me into cooking. We would sit and watch cooking shows together and even when I would ask her to take me to the store for outlandish ingredients then go into the kitchen to try to recreate something crazy that we had seen a chef cook, she was always willing to try. Even if it was a total failure, she would always praise me and encourage me. She was always so positive and so supportive. Without her, I don’t know if I would be a professional chef today. I just hope that one day I can be even half the parent she was.

What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?

When my mom and I were in the kitchen trying out something new she would always tell me — you never know if you don’t try. I would suggest that we mix two crazy ingredients together and she would say the same thing. You never know if you don’t try. I’ve never forgotten that and I live by it every day. If a new idea pops into my head, no matter how crazy, I give it a go. Because you never know if you don’t try. Some things are awful, of course. But I have created a lot of my best dishes with the help of that advice.

What is one piece of advice you would like to leave our readers with? Okay, I’m corny. But I have to say — follow your dreams. No matter what you want to do with your life, you can do it. Even if it’s something you see on tv and you think — oh that looks like fun — give it a try. I love what I do and I want everyone to feel that way about their work. The only way to get this feeling is to follow your dreams and pursue what you love

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