Chef Spotlight: Michael Wolfson, March 2023

Chef Spotlight: Michael Wolfson, March 2023

One of my favorite poems, “The Road Not Taken,” was written by Robert Frost in 1915. Although created to comically represent the indecision between two hiking enthusiasts on which path to take, this poem has, over the years, become contentious. I, for one, take it seriously. The last three lines of this poem read as follows:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Some may hastily conclude that taking an unconventional path toward an objective or dream is heroic, daring, brave, original, and adventurous – all of which may be true. However, being unconventional does not guarantee a good or bad result. So then, what is the point of deciding which route to take if neither guarantees “good” success?

When a student at the Arizona Culinary Institute, I was blessed with the tutelage of some amazing instructors, some of which are yet teaching here! I’d like to share some of the lessons taught to me:

1. Be humble so that I can open my mind to truly learn – If I think I know it all, then what is the point of being here?

2. Be disciplined – study routinely and understand that practicing the correct technique will cure bad habits.

3. Do not be lazy – rather, actively and energetically seek perfection. If a recipe requires 1/8th of a teaspoon of fresh, finely chopped rosemary, don’t use dry out of convenience – walk to the cold storage area, get the fresh rosemary, and finely chop it.

4. Be a team player – if, and when, time allows, help my peers instead of hoping they fail so that I appear better.

5. Be a leader – Set the example and do not ask someone to do that which I cannot or am unwilling to do. Build people up, do not demean or degrade them.

6. Demonstrate integrity – Do not blame others for failing to meet my responsibilities, be accountable, and even if the class before mine left my station messy, clean it up and leave it clean and well–stocked for them.

When I embraced all of these and more attributes of a successful path, I was able to suck the marrow out of the bones of knowledge set before me. I learned how to prepare and plate mouth and eye-watering food, I learned to treat food with respect and gratitude, and I learned how to safely operate my personal tools of the trade as well as kitchen equipment. I learned how to passionately serve my patrons. I learned the foundations of a successful business. I learned to never stop learning.

It may be lonelier, it may invite occasional ridicule, it may be scarier, and it may be significantly harder, but if Robert Frost were to ask me which path I chose, and when students ask me what direction he/she should take, my answer is “The High Road.” It has certainly made a rewarding and fulfilling difference in my life!