The Teaching Moment That Changed J. Kenji López-Alt's Cooking Career

J. Kenji López-Alt is a talented cook, writer, and author. If that wasn't impressive enough, he's also a New York Times best-seller and has won a James Beard Award, per Serious Eats. What can't this talented chef do? Well, apparently, he used to struggle with how to hold a knife correctly. López-Alt grew up in a family of scientists and studied biology in college, according to NBC. He thought his career would be in a lab, not a professional kitchen. But that all changed, when he landed his first summer job as a prep cook and fell in love with cooking. 

However, López-Alt detailed on his Instagram that when he later got his first job at a fine dining restaurant, he struggled. He wrote that his boss saw him having issues with trying to prep mushrooms and stepped in. "Jason came to me, asked me to look at what time it was and how much stuff I had left on my prep list, then said 'Kenji, you need to work with a little more urgency. Here, let me show you a more efficient way to do this,'" López-Alt wrote. The cookbook author said that was a game-changer for him.

J. Kenji López-Alt explains how his previous boss made him a better chef

López-Alt's former boss, then showed him a better cutting method. "He stood at my board, showed me how to do a few mushrooms very fast, said 'alright?' and let me get back to work." The celebrity chef said what was so important about that interaction was that his boss inspired him to be better, but didn't ridicule him. "While belittling someone might get them to work faster because they want to stop feeling so terrible or worthless, nurturing someone will get them to work faster because they believe in their own potential to be better," López-Alt explained. 

The culinary writer said in a separate Instagram post that the cooking industry has a "long history of being abusive, crappy workplaces." He explained that nobody should have to deal with abuse, like how Gordon Ramsay leads his kitchen. López-Alt said he's hoping that more restaurant leaders will treat their employees with respect, even when they make mistakes.