Thriving in the Culinary World

Q&A with the Minds Behind Élephante

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Élephante Pizzas (Photo By: Jakob Layman)
Élephante Pizzas (Photo By: Jakob Layman)

With food and drinks inspired by the Amalfi islands of Italy, Élephante Beach House gives its guests a taste of the Mediterranean without leaving the heart of Santa Monica. On the edge of the water, this beloved rooftop restaurant and bar is the perfect place for guests to unwind and soak up the sun. Though the restaurant offers a tranquil atmosphere for guests, working in the restaurant industry isn’t always as carefree. However, the team at Élephante seems to do it with ease. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with the restaurant’s head chef, Phil Rubino, and the restaurant’s culinary director, Thomas Lim, where we broke down the secret to their success. From getting started in the culinary world to overcoming obstacles and avoiding burnout, here’s what they had to share with the Thrive Global community. 

What motivated you to pursue a career as a chef?

Phil: I have always been fascinated with chefs and restaurants. I grew up in my dad’s bakery. When I was in high school that’s where I worked. When it came time to go to college I decided to go to culinary school. Getting to work with food, not just baked goods pushed me to get a job as a line cook. 

What advice do you have for aspiring chefs hoping to break into the culinary world? 

Thomas: Be prepared to work for little or no compensation and focus on absorbing as much information and technique. Be prepared to make mistakes, and learn from them. Above all, look after your health – body, and mind.

What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve faced during your career as a chef and how did you work to overcome it?

Phil: Myself, I put a lot of pressure on myself to get the job done. I make sure that I have a good support group around me. Friends and family are key. Also, having a hobby or something not related to the industry helps. 

How has your work helped you build a meaningful life?

Phil: Being a chef gave me structure and something to turn to. Those things have extended into my day to day life.

In your eyes, what sets Élephante apart from other restaurants?

Thomas: The culture. We focus on driving a positive and healthy work environment for our employees. In return, the customer experience (food, drinks, service, ambiance) is consistent and memorable.

Cooking isn’t your traditional nine-to-five job. How does this impact your work-life balance?

Phil: It’s very hard, but you have to make the best of it. Sometimes the sacrifices are big. Giving up certain holidays or events. But its important to find the time for those things. Finding people that help support you when you’re not at the restaurant is important. Making sure they can run things when I am not present is key. Having a sense of confidence that you don’t have to be there is important.

The Élephante Balcony (Photo By: Genevieve Adams)
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