Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Bringing Pride to the Institute- Part 1:The Zach Geerson Story

Hello Readers, from me to you, I hope you enjoy a look inside the Culinary World!
-Timothy Fisher        

The Culinary Institute of America is known as the World's Premier Culinary College and well, that's for a good reason.  We constantly hear of great chefs who are graduates like Grant Achatz, Cat Cora, Duff Goldman, and Anthony Bourdain. But there are over 47,000 graduates of the institute and so many of them go on to do absolutely amazing things. Now this is a chance to hear about one of them.

Meet Zachary Geerson, a 2013 Culinary Arts Associates graduate of the CIA. 

Right after graduation, he came back to the CIA where he presided as the MIT (Manager-in-Training) for the kitchen in the Caterina Restaurant on our campus from September 2013 until July 2014 under the direction of Chef Giovanni Scappin.  I had the pleasure of working alongside him while I worked as the Al Forno MIT in Caterina. An extremely passionate and driven individual, Zach could never be kept content with anything but the absolute best wherever he went, even when we would cook at my apartment; a challenge to create a dish made from leftovers lead us to making a Mac n Cheese Soufflé and well, a roasted chicken and spam terrine. I know what you're thinking, but it was fantastic once we put our minds to it. All of this lead him to stay in the Hudson Valley for several months working for Chef Scappin at his Cucina restaurant in Woodstock, NY while he planned his next move.  In October it looked all planned out, he packed up and moved to Miami where he would be working as a chef for a hotel. Upon his arrival, he realized it wasn't what he thought it was going to be in many aspects, including a dampening of his creativity.  Unwilling to compromise on the integral standards he had honed and developed through his years at the CIA and working in the hospitality industry, he promptly packed his knives and left once he found his next calling.

Here's the twist.

Whilst scrolling through Facebook while still in Miami, he saw a status from a friend asking for help in a restaurant in Southern California. Within minutes and after a short phone call, he headed on a cross-country road trip to Brea, California to take a job at a brand new restaurant called Tempo Urban Kitchen.

As a Pastry Chef.

Once in sunny Brea, Zach started at Tempo on November 2nd as a Pastry Chef and started to put his innovation to work as he kept his head down to not make a splash and just do good work.  This was not to last, because being his good friend, I can say that he's not one to be quiet. Quickly his ideas, techniques, and passion were noticed by the rest of the kitchen including his boss and restaurant owner Jorge Cueva.  He began to get more hands on with the savory production of the kitchen and from there, well, there was no stopping him. On December 20th, just 49 days later, Jorge named Zach the new Executive Chef of Tempo Urban Kitchen.  Since then he has continued to innovate, completely changing the menu, working to perfect the Chef's Tasting Menu which is made personally for each table who reserves for it, and is never the same.  It is quoted that upon his promotion, he said... Or at least thought, "These guys don't even know what they got themselves into".

For Zach, it never stops. In fact, I'm sitting in the office at Tempo writing this because it's where we came after he picked me up at the airport, as I flew down for the day to talk to him about everything that has happened in the past two months and also to dine at Tempo. It's not just the food, he keeps involved in the service and truly cares about his clients who come to eat every day.  In fact, just a short while ago, a group came to Tempo at 10:30 in the morning for a reservation made in Open Table which had glitched, as they don't open until 11:30 for lunch. After talking to them and realizing what had happened, he didn't send them away, instead he worked with them,coming up with a personalized breakfast menu on the spot, cooking everything to order, serving it, and taking care of the group.  "They all got together from all over the area just to see each other and eat at Tempo, to eat at my restaurant.  It's not their fault OpenTable made a mistake, why would I turn them away? Everything I learned at CIA was about the hospitality industry. It's integral to my job as a chef to be hospitable to the most important people- my customers"- Zach. Tempo Urban Kitchen is now one of the hottest new restaurants in the OC with the potential to become the best restaurant in the OC.

It's amazing to me as a fellow CIA graduate/student and as his friend to see how everything we would spend hours talking about, from the passion that drives us to cook and serve, to why we both are called to this industry, to the integral standards we both agreed upon have not ever left him.  He has taken it and continued to hone everything, truly believing as we both do, that Blood, Sweat, and Tears are what we put into our careers every single day. But you know what they say, "If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life".

If that wasn't one hell of a success story, I don't know what is.
Now if you excuse me, I need to see what all the talk about Tempo is really about! Cheers!!

Daily meeting of Owner Jorge Cueva 
and Executive Chef Zach Geerson

If you're interested in checking out Tempo, just click on the link below to see their homepage! I'll be posting again soon with my review of the restaurant!

Tempo Urban Kitchen

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