Nelson Millán, Executive Chef of San Antonio (Texas) Country Club believes experienced chefs have a responsibility to teach and guide young culinarians.
When I entered the food and beverage industry, I quickly realized how much there was to still learn. I also realized how little time I would have in my life to learn it. I was overcome by this lack of knowledge and skill and I constantly compared myself to the professionals I was surrounded by.
I decided the best way to catch up would be to find a mentor who was committed to both his own skills as well as the craft—someone who believed enough in me, a perfect stranger, to guide me through the culinary seas and teach me about the culture of a kitchen, products, equipment, and techniques. (If a few additional life lessons rubbed off, all the better.)
I have been blessed enough to have found a handful of mentors over the course of my career. They were each unique and insightful. They were tolerant and patient enough to dedicate their time to teach and guide me. They have had a profound impact on my skills and my knowledge. I would not be where I am today without them.
So, now that I am in a position that allows me to mentor others, I have realized that being a mentor is more than a privilege. It is an obligation and a responsibility. I feel it in my core. We, as experienced chefs, have a responsibility to ourselves and to the future of our craft to pass the torch to younger generations.
As a mentor, I now realize how committed my own mentors were. They went beyond their daily responsibilities to teach me the how-tos, the whys and why-nots. It didn’t matter how busy they were. They took the time to patiently share their wealth of knowledge and experience with me.
The opportunity to teach and mentor my own staff here at San Antonio CC and as an adjunct chef instructor at the CIA campus of San Antonio Texas have made me realize how profound this responsibility is. Mentoring is bigger than any one of us. And without it our craft will not grow and evolve.
My hope is that each time I teach a young cook a new technique or preach about respect for the tools, the products, and the cultures, I advance our craft a tiny bit. My hope is that you do the same in your kitchens and clubs. Together, we have the power and the responsibility to not only leave a legacy but also build a foundation for the future.