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“Simplicity Is Key”: Career Advice from DBGB DC’s Ed Scarpone

DBGB DC’s Ed Scarpone speaking to JWU Charlotte students

Distinguished Visiting Chef Ed Scarpone '09 talked about his first day at JWU Providence: “Every day, everybody starts from scratch.”

Everybody starts from scratch. Walking in to his first day of culinary labs as a freshman at JWU’s Providence Campus, Edward Scarpone '09 was unaware of the life he was embarking on.

Unsure of himself in the strictly run Johnson and Wales kitchens, Scarpone was tempted to change majors instead of looking like a fool in front of his seemingly well-practiced classmates.

It wasn’t until the third day he realized they were all in the same boat. One classmate was sent to the hospital to receive stitches down her leg from an accidental knife drop; another was setting the sauté station aflame; and someone across the lab passed out from the heat of the kitchen. Every day, everyone starts from scratch. Every day we walk onto the red tile floor of the kitchen, we have an opportunity to learn something new and possibly something unexpected.

It’s easier to train someone who wants to learn than someone who thinks they know everything.”

Making coq au vin, a foundational dish.

As JWU Charlotte’s latest Distinguished Visiting Chef (DVC), Scarpone’s career advice to JWU students is seasoned by his half-dozen years working in Daniel Boulud’s kitchens, including DB Bistro in New York City. (Not yet 30 years old, he currently helms Boulud’s DBGB Kitchen + Bar in Washington, DC.)

To Scarpone, the only way to be successful is by fostering a strong base — knowing the basics like the back of your hand.

Inspired by the classic French dish, coq au vin, he harbors a respect for dishes in their original and classically intended form. “The thing you need to focus on is technique.”

Braising, fabricating, roasting, knife skills; these are all things that cooks and aspiring chefs should practice whenever they can and as often as they can. With this philosophy, he once again stressed how important it is to be open to learning and “really wanting to succeed.”

“Simplicity is key — but knowing all you can makes you better.” The will to continue after a 16-hour shift, the strength and dedication it takes to get through every day, the desire to absorb knowledge and become better not only in the kitchen, but also in life; these are the qualities of a Chef.

Scarpone doesn’t expect all of these qualities in a first-year intern, but he does expect one to be on time, ready to work, willing to learn, and showing care in what they do.

Today, chefs like Massimo Bottura, Daniel Boulud and Scarpone are more willing to hire someone who has no kitchen experience, so long as he or she exhibits a strong will to learn. “It’s easier to train someone who wants to learn than someone who thinks they know everything.”

Passionate people are what make successful restaurants. When a restaurant brigade is full of passionate people, “everyone wants to help everyone” and “that was the comraderie the way Daniel [Boulud] wanted it.”

Simplicity is key — but knowing all you can makes you better.”

By the same token, seeing the reaction of the guest isn’t as important as the reaction of one of his line cooks after a successful night running their first special. “Watching the cooks, that’s what makes it worth it.”

Scarpone has come a long way from his first intimidating day at Johnson & Wales to being hand-picked by Daniel Boulud to run his newly-opened DBGB DC. Being in the kitchen is what it’s all about and one day, he hopes to start and own his own restaurant from the ground up.

Follow Ed Scarpone on Twitter. You can also follow Boulud Careers.

Scarpone chatting with a student after his demo.

Topics: Careers Culinary Arts Charlotte Alumni