If your dream is to become a chef, the first step is to become a great cook. And, as Julia Child said, “No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.” We’ve curated a diverse list of inspiring chef quotes to encourage you on your journey to culinary perfection.
1. Jiro Ono
Jiro Ono is widely considered the greatest sushi chef in the world. The documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi captures Jiro’s desire to always work toward perfection. Though he says he has still not achieved perfect mastery, his customers likely disagree. They call months in advance to secure a reservation and are happy to pay $300 a plate to eat sushi from the master.
“Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably.”Jiro Ono
At the young age of 25, Michael Caines was already a rising culinary star in Britain. He earned a position as head chef of Michelin-starred Gidleigh Park, but shortly after lost his right arm in a terrible car accident. Rather than give up, Michael became even more determined to excel as a professional chef.
“I didn’t want to let this beat me. All the time I’d spent learning my trade, I wasn’t about to give up without a fight. The accident made me incredibly focused on achieving.”Michael Caines
French chef Dominique Crenn moved to the U.S. in the 1980s to pursue her culinary career. She now owns Atelier Creen and is the only female chef in the United States with three Michelin stars, the highest honor bestowed by the Michelin Guide.
“I’m not serving a menu, I’m serving a story. I’m serving my soul. I’m serving a conversation, and I want you to talk back to me.”Dominque Crenn
4. Kristen Kish
Winner of Top Chef season 10, Kristen now owns Arlo Grey in Austin, TX. She is passionate about connecting with people through food and changing the culture in professional kitchens.
“My goal is to shift what it looks like,” she says. “It’s not just come in and do your job and let me tell you all the things that you did wrong and just think I’m the boss. On a human level, it’s about being a leader and being a manager and being someone who inspires and is tapping into somebody on a personal level.”Kristen Kish
Antoni is best known as the food and wine expert on Queer Eye. He helps people featured on the show upgrade their lives by learning how to cook delicious, nourishing food. He honed his culinary skills working his way up in restaurants and under the guidance of Tim Allen, the food and wine expert from the original Queer Eye.
“I was a busboy, a waiter, a manager, a sommelier… like… all of it from a family-run Polish restaurant, with, like, grandmas in the basement hand-making pierogies, to working at Bond Street for a while. I’ve done it all.”Antoni Porowski
6. Nina Compton
Known for being the runner-up in Top Chef: New Orleans in 2013, Nina now owns two renowned restaurants in The Big Easy, Compére Lapin and Bywater American Bistro. She blends her Caribbean roots with classic New Orleans cuisine for a delicious cultural fusion.
“When you run a kitchen, no matter how crazy and chaotic it gets, you have to be the calm one. You cannot show any sign of fear — the guests pick up on it. The beauty of this kitchen, though, is that everybody helps everybody.”Nina Compton
Winner of the 2019 James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year, Kwame is quickly making a name for himself in the culinary world. He recently published Notes From a Young Black Chef, a memoir about the challenges he faced working in a field dominated by white men.
“Fifty-four years ago is when the last restaurant was integrated and Jim Crow was lifted, and here I am, my ancestors’ wildest dreams…We can include everyone in the conversation of cooking.”Kwame Onwuachi
Tom Douglas, a celebrated Seattle-based chef and restaurateur, has been cooking up Pacific Northwest cuisine since 1984. In addition to being well-known for his excellent culinary skills, he is also widely admired for his persistence and enthusiasm for making his restaurants the best they can be.
“Mastering one recipe is better than mastering too many. Learn something and own it, and you’ll feel so much better about it. You’ll have more confidence if you’ve made it five times, and that confidence adds so much fun to cooking.”Tom Douglas
9. Alex Atala
Alex owns D.O.M. in São Paulo, Brazil which has been rated one of the 50 best restaurants in the world by S. Pellegrino. He is well known for his fine dining cuisine and his support for sustainable harvesting. He was also featured on Chef’s Table, a documentary series that explores the history and passion of some of the best chefs on the planet.
“I remember very well my first taste of caviar. I said, ‘I don’t know if that’s good.’ I remember very well the first day that I tasted tucupi, the juice of manioc flour. And I said, ‘Wow, this is a new flavor. I don’t know if I like it.’ But if caviar is fancy, and tucupi is not fancy, it’s just because someone told me. There’s a cultural interpretation of flavors.”Alex Atala
Grant is a world-renowned chef and owner of Alinea, one of the top restaurants in the world. He’s known for his modern, unconventional cuisine. The name Alinea reflects this culinary perspective and means “the beginning of a new train of thought.”
“People like to think the creative process is romantic. The artist drifts to sleep at night, to be awakened by the subliminal echoes of his or her next brilliant idea. The truth, for me at least, is that creativity is primarily the result of hard work and study.”Grant Achatz
We hope this list of chef quotes inspires your culinary adventure. If you’re just starting out, you can take the first step toward your dream of being a chef by finding an excellent BOH restaurant job here.