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November 1, 2023

The Recipe For Success



When someone comes for a job in my kitchen, I don’t look at their resume first. Anyone can fake a piece of paper. Instead, I ask them to prepare something for me, and I tell them it needs to look good, smell good, and taste good. And here’s the thing: what is true for making it as a chef is true for the rest of life too.

You aren’t going to go far if you can’t deliver on what you promise. Nor will you, even if you’ve got all the right ingredients but you don’t know how to present them well. I tell candidates not to oversell themselves. I just want to know if they have some talent; if so, I can work with that. They may not have all the skills, but I can train them.

Passion is vital as well. Being in the kitchen isn’t always glamorous. In fact, it’s plain hard work. You have to be willing to work long hours, often at weekends and over holidays. You need to take care of your health—it’s tough being on your feet all day.

When you start out, you learn to do what someone else tells you. After a while, you get to take what that chef has shown you and develop your own style. You look at their ideas and take them and create something new for yourself.

If you love what you do and are teachable and determined, there is no limit to what you can achieve. I got my love for cooking from my grandmothers and learned that being able to prepare food was a great way to get a date! It also taught me how to complete a task, which helped me want more in life than what I saw in the inner city where I grew up.

Some of that even carried over when, after a spell in the Marines, I quit the food world for a while. I got a job as a foreman installing granite at the Four Seasons in Palm Beach, Florida. The executive chef, Robbin Haas, saw the way I interacted with my team and offered me a job in the kitchen. I didn’t tell him I had trained as a chef.

That was more than 20 years ago. Since then I have prepared food for a long list of celebrities like LeBron James, Russell Simmons, Jennifer Lopez, and Bill Gates. Most of my work for small A-lister meals and large corporate events—when we may cater for up to 2,000 people—comes by word of mouth. Maybe my proudest moment was one time catering an event for President Obama, who taught me something about leadership.

He made a point of coming into the kitchen afterward. He asked me if I wanted a picture of the two of us, and I said, “No, let’s do it with the whole staff.” Then he went round and shook everyone’s hand, looked them in the eyes, and thanked them—one of the nicest guys I ever met in my life.

Executive Chef Patrick Adams held positions at several exclusive resorts before founding event-planning Gourmet Designs Inc., in Lake Worth, Fla. Among the places his culinary travels have taken him are China, France, Morocco, and Turkey.