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A Week in the Life of a Culinary Director
By Tara Bryan, Senior Culinary Director at Jean-Georges Management
As a senior culinary director, my role is to work with our teams in New York, around the country, and around the world to ensure they’re maintaining a high quality and level of execution for our signature and seasonal recipes.
We have over 60 restaurants around the world and I am closely involved in all of them. We maintain communication constantly, either with our bi-weekly calls – or talking almost daily via email or phone. I visit the restaurants as much as possible to be there in person, train, and guide through processes and systems.
One of my responsibilities is working on our restaurant openings – ahead of opening day, I go to the restaurant two weeks before to train and stay there up until two weeks after opening day to support. I also visit established restaurants to train employees and check on them.
The amount of travel varies. It’s truly month to month from openings to seasonal menu changes. On average, I travel two weeks per month either with Jean-Georges and the team for a site visit with events to provide support for menu changes, or if we have a new chef starting and I need to train them.
London has two restaurants that I oversee at The Connaught Hotel: Jean-Georges at the Connaught, which we opened in 2017, and the Connaught Grill. I recently traveled there for five days to train the team and make and demonstrate as many new dishes as possible for both teams to see.
Since I was last there, we’ve had some new back-of-house team members join us so I get to know them within my first few hours. Additionally, I am checking all signature menu items on the menu, and on Friday, Jean-Georges and I take the team to a local farmers market. Connecting with local farms and farmers is one of Jean-Georges’ ethos so it’s great to be able to show the team the importance of these relationships and the use of local, seasonal produce for dishes. With over 30 dishes made between both restaurants and new relationships built with the team, the whole trip was a success.
Just a few days later, I travel to Doha, Qatar to visit our restaurant Curiosa which we opened in October 2022.
This is my first trip back since the opening, and I’m here to check that all recipe and product standards have been upheld. I’m only here for two days, so my plan is to work on some new dishes with the team and double-check everything else on the menu.
I start by reviewing the current menu and offerings. We check sales and seasonality and move forward with producing a few dishes to get the team excited for change. Edgar Hurtado, the chef de cuisine of Curiosa, holds two tastings of his own where I try eight ceviche dishes for a new promotion coming up. We tweaked a couple of the dishes to fit more in with the concept. A few needed some more acid just to balance out the dishes, but overall Chef Edgar is starting to understand our flavor profiles when he creates new dishes for the specials, which is nice to see. I then do a dessert tasting with him and his pastry chef. I make room for Chef Edgar’s new birria taco that he wants to add to the menu. The tacos had amazing flavor, but we had to just make the shaved onion smaller for the garnish and add a little lime juice to the broth to brighten it up.
Will all new dishes tasted, I move on to checking service – ensuring that all food going out into the restaurant and onto guests’ tables are up to standards. I adjust some minor plating and seasoning.
Once my two days have come to an end. I then head over to the W Hotel for six days of dish training with the team at Spice Market.
Here I’m greeted by my fellow New York City colleagues, Denis Bouron the service trainer, and chef Emily Giauque the other culinary director. While I oversee Spice Market, Emily oversees the dish training down at Market by Jean-Georges. And Denis oversees the front-of-house service for both restaurants. It’s always great to travel with the team because we find more gets done and we are more productive having both front-of-house and back-of-house people on property.
We train and demo over 20 dishes for each restaurant. Once we and the local team are happy with the dishes, we host tastings for the executives of the hotel. Both tastings were a success for Market and Spice Market. We wrap up our six days with the team with a quick dinner and briefing. Then we head to the airport to take a 2 a.m. flight back to NYC.
Exhausted you ask? Just a little, but one of my passions — in and out of the kitchen — is teaching. Whether it’s showing my nieces how to make the perfect chocolate chip cookies or helping chefs master the skills and importance of every element in Jean-Georges’ recipes. That passion has allowed me to help train and nurture the next generation of chefs.