April 7, 2020

Perseverance

Sébastien Baud – Executive Chef

I was born in 1973 in La Rochelle, France a small town on the Atlantic Ocean. I grew up close to nature. Hunting, fishing, mushroom picking, and growing vegetables were a big part of our family’s everyday ritual.

Very early on, and as soon as I was off from school, my father, who was a fisherman, would take me with him, fishing and selling his catch of the day to local restaurants. That’s when I had my first experiences in the culinary world. A professional world that was new to me, but so captivating and fascinating. The kitchens, the Chefs, the atmosphere, the smell, the respect that was going on around these places, everything was attractive and I became obsessed, I became passionate.  I was only ten years old then, but I knew I wanted to be a Chef, to be part of this world.

I would like to talk about, “Perseverance” because this word means a lot to me. “Perseverance” is what got me to be a Chef from day one. In the early 90s, things were more complicated, and I knew I was in for a treat. First, I had to convince my parents that I wanted to cook and be a Chef for the rest of my life. Then, I had to convince them to let me apply for culinary school and drop out of high school early. Also, I knew this would be a financial sacrifice for them and, to this day, I cannot thank them enough for that.

With perseverance I applied to culinary school, but, with disappointment, I was not accepted.  So then I applied again the next year and my dream came true. I was in! Three years later, I graduated successfully and obtained the degree required to work as a professional Chef in France. I was 17 years old.

After graduation, I applied in a 2 Michelin star restaurant in my hometown. On my first day, the Chef told me to go wash dishes and I disagreed with him. I said, “I have a degree and I want to learn to cook!”. He did not give me a choice, this was a take-it-or-leave-it kind of situation. So, I took it and, with perseverance again, I made my way up to the stove and was given the responsibility to work on the line for many years. During this time, I had the opportunity to learn from knowledgeable and qualified Chefs who taught me a lot. They became my family and I lived with them 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. I knew that I made the right decision.

Chef Sebastien Baud

On my own dime, I went to Paris to explore and gain more experience. I worked as a “Commis de Cuisine” in a French traditional bistro. After a year of hard work and dedication, the owner asked me to take over the Executive Chef position – I was only 21. I worked 12 to 14 hours a day, every day for the next two years with only a sous-Chef and two apprentices. Then I realized that wasn’t enough and that I had to learn more. I had to travel the world, and discover new culinary challenges. So, on my own again, I went to Galway, Ireland. The challenges were greater. I spoke no English and couldn’t cook. Then, money started to run out. I was eating potatoes and ketchup every day and looking for little side money on the streets of Galway. But again, perseverance led me to a job as a dishwasher in a four-star hotel. I was so happy to get it. I worked my way up 12 hours a day for the next six months, cleaning, washing, and peeling potatoes until one day the Chef came to me, handed me a Chef jacket and told me “tomorrow you start to work the line.” I did it for a few years.

1999 was the year I moved to New York and started over. Again on my own, and with perseverance, I made my way up from a country club in Kingston NY, going through various restaurants, positions, and experiences in New York City. I am currently the Executive Chef at the Consulate General of France in New York City, a position that I obtained with perseverance. Since 2012, I have been able to practice my cooking at a different level and represent French gastronomy for celebrities and government representatives. I have been recognized by the James Beard Foundation and the French government. I am a member of the Master Chefs of France and recently became the President of the Delegation USA/Canada of the Académie Culinaire of France – the oldest French culinary association in the world.

This was not a goal or an objective for me. Rather, it was simply a way of not giving up, being persistent and pursuing the efforts required to do something. Keep doing what I love: cooking. Even if it was hard, I’ve always try to show the right attitude.

Today, I dedicate my time to promote French gastronomy in the USA and to transmit our “Know-How” to young Chefs by encouraging them to compete in culinary competitions in France and in the USA.