“Stop when you need to.” with Tyler Gallagher & Tatiana Rosana

Stop when you need to. You can’t be a great chef if you’re burnt out, and honestly your priority should always be your physical and mental health. When those two things are in order, everything else will fall into place. It’s okay to take a break and sometimes you need to take a step back […]

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Stop when you need to. You can’t be a great chef if you’re burnt out, and honestly your priority should always be your physical and mental health. When those two things are in order, everything else will fall into place. It’s okay to take a break and sometimes you need to take a step back in order to launch yourself forward.

As part of our series about the lessons from influential ‘TasteMakers’, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Chef Tatiana Rosana.

Chef Tatiana is a first-generation Cuban American who grew up in Miami in a traditional Cuban family where food always took center stage. Today, Chef Rosana heads Outlook Kitchen, Lookout Rooftop and Bar as well as The Envoy Hotel’s in-room dining as the Executive Chef. Inspired by her wife’s Korean heritage, her own Cuban background, French training and New England experience, Chef Rosana is guided by her curiosity and openness to new cuisines. Since joining the team at The Envoy Hotel, she has competed on The Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay, Chopped and Chopped Champions winning twice and earning the title of two-time Chopped Champion. When she’s not in the kitchen, she is sharing her dishes on her Instagram (@chef.tatiana).

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?

Mypath to becoming a chef was riddled with roadblocks. I started off as a bio-chem pre-med major in college before realizing that my true passion is cooking. Coming from a traditional Cuban family, food was always central to my life and I decided soon after starting school that I needed to follow my heart. That’s when I switched gears, went to culinary school, and moved to Boston to pursue my culinary career.

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?

While I don’t have a specific type of food to focus on, I do consider my food “progressive American” because my inspirations and motivations are constantly progressing and moving forward.

I am a first-generation Cuban American living in New England, my wife is a first generation Korean American, and I was trained in French cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu. Because of this, I have SO MUCH to draw from for inspiration and it reflects in my cuisine. I like making food that is approachable and nostalgic but in a way people may not have tried before. This approach gives a sense of creativity and draws on the emotional aspect of food.

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?

The process of menu writing can sometimes lead to gross results and not every “brilliant idea” I’ve had turned out amazing. Some of my experimental dishes have been downright disgusting and will never see the light of day again. But I’ve learned that success is rooted in the process, not always the results. These experiences have taught me to keep going at it and to figure out my failures. I never fully walk away from a failed dish and I try to view it from other angles to fix where it went wrong.

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 first moved to Boston to pursue a career in the culinary industry, I had ZERO experience other than culinary school (which is as good as nothing if you don’t have any real hands-on kitchen experience). I was shy and alone, and I have never stepped foot in a professional kitchen before. I had to literally knock on the back doors of restaurants and ask them to please give me the opportunity to learn and prove myself. I was turned away from many kitchens, but I finally got my chance with Chef Mary Dumont (executive chef of Harvest Restaurant at the time), she was willing to bet on me and it’s something I will never forget. She taught me everything I know about the industry and she gave me the opportunity to grow as a person and as a chef. Because of her, I never turn away a cook with no experience because that cook was me at one point in time. I love mentoring and teaching those who want to learn.

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

I think the key to creating a good dish is first and foremost the taste. Secondly, it’s about finding the perfect balance between creativity and nostalgia. It’s about presenting familiar dishes in unfamiliar ways. It keeps people intrigued yet satisfied which is the key for them to come back for more.

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

The perfect meal is anything made by my mom. You can’t fake heart, and she has a lot of it.

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

My inspiration comes from a million of different places. Sometimes it’s an enticing smell, a painting, or the sound of rain. It really depends but once my inspiration is piqued, I know I need to run with it and complete the dish before I lose the spark which can often disappear as quickly as it comes.

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

Right now, the biggest project I have doesn’t have anything to do with food. My greatest project to date is being pregnant and starting a family. I think there is a huge lack of representation for not only female chefs, but chefs who are mothers. I hope with my success and ability to raise a family and stay relevant in this industry; I can inspire other women and show them that it is possible.

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

Stop when you need to. You can’t be a great chef if you’re burnt out, and honestly your priority should always be your physical and mental health. When those two things are in order, everything else will fall into place. It’s okay to take a break and sometimes you need to take a step back in order to launch yourself forward.

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. Culinary school does not make you a chef. A lot of times, we go into culinary school as kids and think when we graduate that we are guaranteed jobs in the industry at our dream restaurants and that’s just not true. After finishing school, it takes years of hustle and passion to get you to where you want to be and even then, the work never stops.
  2. A boss says “go”; a leader says, “let’s go.” Be a leader. I never realized how hard managing a team would be. Managing the team isn’t the most difficult part, it’s motivating your team that is a lot of work. In order to motivate your teammates to become better employees, you need to understand every team member on a personal level and learn what makes them tick and what sparks their passion.
  3. Stay true to yourself throughout your journey. Along the ride, people, guests, superiors, and trends will make you question who you are as a chef. Remember that no matter what the next big trend is, the most important thing is to stay true to yourself. People will always come back to eat your food if you cook with your heart.
  4. In the words of Maya Angelou, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” The process is going to hurt. The road to success is not always pretty, but the ending is worth the transition. I wish someone told me how hard the process would be and that I wouldn’t become a butterfly immediately after graduating from culinary school. In the end, all the hard work I did in order to get to where I am today has made the journey that much more beautiful.
  5. Have fun! This industry is hard, but life is short so don’t forget to have fun and smile.

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

I think the dish that most defines who I am as a chef is my Yucca Gnocchi. Yucca is a traditional root vegetable eaten in my culture but not many people outside of my culture have tried it before. In order to make it more approachable, I presented it as gnocchi as this is a dish people are more familiar with. The Yucca Gnocchi keeps guests intrigued while giving them nostalgic vibes.

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.

The one movement I would want to inspire people with is to BE YOURSELF. So many people and things will try to change you or make you second guess your work but block out the noise. Don’t forget where you came from as you are strong and capable of achieving greatness by being exactly who you are. Embrace yourself!

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

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