Master chef in the making

Meghan Pottle | Staff Writer

Senior Adrian Chan traveled 2,395 miles to wash dishes.

Chan had planned on studying to become an architectural engineer after high school, but after taking a chance and deciding to pursue his real passion instead, he will move to San Francisco, California to work for the world’s best female chef.

Chan’s first job in the kitchen was at Straits of Malacca, a former restaurant in downtown Mason. Chef Paul Liaw said that Chan is a very determined person and was hardworking in his kitchen.

“He was very passionate about the job and he really liked it,” Liaw said. “Now, he is working together with me at the best restaurant in Cincinnati, Restaurant L.”

Chan used to make hot appetizers at Restaurant L, but he now prepares cold appetizers because he told the chefs that he wants to learn as much as he can while he is working there.

Restaurant L Chef de Cuisine Brett Crowe said he has witnessed Chan’s passion for cooking by seeing him consistently come in and do the work.

“Not every seventeen year old would want to come in and work for free two days a week after school – that’s passion,” Crowe said. “When he went to New York to see his sister, he asked me if I could set him up with some kitchens out there to check out. On spring break, most kids are out having fun, but he is out having fun in the kitchen, so he has a real passion for it to want to set up stages in other kitchens while he is on vacation.”

For Chan’s Personal Learning Day this past year, he traveled to San Francisco to ask Chef Dominique Crenn, owner of Atelier Crenn, if he could work in her kitchen.

“At first, I did not ask for a job, I asked if I could stage for her, which in chef’s terms means you work for someone without getting paid,” Chan said. “I was very scared at first because she is professional, but she is still very caring. I knocked on the door and at first, no one noticed me because they were all working in the kitchen. Then, I knocked again and she turned around and saw me.”

Chan said that he became familiar with Crenn when he watched a documentary called “Chef’s Table” and explained this to her when they met.

“At the time, she recently won Best Female Chef in the world,” Chan said. “I knew about it, but I did not say much about it because I did not want it to sound like ‘I am coming to you just because you are the best.’ I told her that everyone in my high school knows what they want to do and where they want to go to college, but to me, even though I told my parents I want to go to this college and be an architectural engineer, I know that is not what I want. That is how she started too, she did not have any restaurant experience and did not go to culinary school, she just went to a restaurant and asked for a job, which is what I am doing.”

Chan said he did not want to work for Crenn because she was named the best female chef in the world, but because he admired her story and philosophy.

“Her story really touched me in a sense because I really like how she treats others,” Chan said. “To her, cooking is not just serving food to others, but it is the dish that she uses to communicate to others. To her, it is a vehicle, it is a language to communicate with others. How she set up her restaurant is very model to how she wants her house to be, so it is kind of like the guests are dining at her house.”

Crenn allowed Chan to wash dishes at Atelier Crenn that night. Chan was invited to come back and work in the kitchen the following day, and worked at Atelier Crenn for the duration of his stay in San Francisco.

Chan said on his last night, Chef Crenn asked him if he wanted to work for her after he graduated high school. After winning his parents’ support, Chan finalized his plans and will move to San Francisco on June 27.

Crowe said he sees potential in Chan because of his persistence and dedication.

“He is a very passionate young man and I think he will do very well in his career,” Crowe said. “He has got his foot in the right door at his age. He is working with us right now in Cincinnati and in Cincinnati Magazine, we are listed number one in the city. He is going to work with a great chef in San Francisco, so we will see if he really likes what he is doing. If you surround yourself with good people, you become very good, so I think he has a great future ahead of himself whether he does this or another career.”