Chef Allison Richard graduated from Nicholls State University in 2007. Richard says that she originally wanted to be a teacher but couldn’t get away from her love of the kitchen. Since graduating from culinary school, Richard has had the opportunity to work with many well-known chefs over the years such as Frank Brigtsen, Susan Spicer and Jeremy Wolgamott. Richard moved her way up in restaurants in New Orleans before being offered her current role as the Executive Chef of High Hat Cafe.
Q: What is your current job like?
A: Being the Chef of a restaurant is the dream for a lot of young cooks. It was never my dream. I wanted to be a teacher. I started working in what I call ‘real’ kitchens, or professionally run kitchens, during my time at CJFCI. I found out that I wasn’t too bad at it. When I progressed to being a Sous Chef, I still did not want to be the Chef. I knew that the hours were long, the job was physically demanding, and the crushing weight of responsibility can turn you into a different person. When the offer of Chef was given to me, for some reason, I did not hesitate to take it. Being a chef requires hard work and dedication. It is not only physically demanding but mentally as well. It’s not just about long hours, it’s about finding time within those hours to do ALL the things you need to do. You are not only responsible for the food but also for the staff and their actions. On a daily basis, I write/create specials, write schedules, manage staff, taste food, expedite service, act as a line cook, call in orders, etc.
Q: What interested you in the culinary industry?
A: It’s not that I was specifically ‘interested’. You get hooked. The adrenaline rush of your first busy night on a line as a cook is the best feeling you’ll ever have in your life. After that, it’s all about the ‘perfect night’. You know, the night where nothing goes wrong, your fellow cooks are all in sync, and everyone has fun doing it… aka Unicorn Night.
When I was younger I had an aunt that would cook me copious amounts of delicious food. As I would sit down to eat, she would just stand in front of me. I finally asked her why she did this. She responded with, “I like to cook for people and watch them eat.” She was looking for that ‘mmm this is delicious’ face. She wanted to stare it in the eye. I get that now. I just want to cook for people. I want them to experience something, whether it be something new or a memory of foods past.
Q: What is your favorite project that you have worked on so far?
A:I really enjoy off-site events. It’s like going rogue or guerilla cooking. You prepare for everything, but inevitably something happens. I like thinking on my feet.
We worked on a very lovely dinner at the aquarium called Audubon GULF dinner series. Five different chefs use sustainable seafood to illustrate the dangerous impact associated with the irreparable actions taken in the industry today. Getting the chance to work with such amazing chefs as Tenney Flynn, Brian Landry, Chris Lynch and Dana Horn was really great for me.
Q: What did you learn at CJFCI that still impacts you today?
A: Culinary school was the right choice for me. I needed the extra push and the leg up. It also gave me quite a bit of confidence starting out. I learned that not all cooks are created equal. We all have our strong points and they are most probably different from another person’s. The most impactful class that was able to participate in was Meat Fabrication I and II with Chef George Kaslow. I think about him on a weekly if not daily basis. I hope to one day have impacted someone’s life the way he did to mine. Also, Frank Brigtsen’s Contemporary Creole and Cajun helped me get my foot in the door in New Orleans. I learned so much with Frank and I couldn’t have done it without taking that class.
Q: What advice would you like to share with young culinarians?
A: Sharp knives!
Take notes…. all the time. Use a notebook.
Save recipes from every job you ever work at.
Steal with your eyes.
Learn from others’ mistakes.
BEHIND! ON YOUR BACK! SHARP! HOT!