Eleven Madison Park Sous Chef Connie Chung: Understanding Someone Else's Vision Helps You Understand Your Own
Connie Chung works on Eleven Madison Park's (11 Madison Avenue, 212-889-0905) show-stopping creations alongside Daniel Humm and a legion of other sous chefs. The 29-year-old was raised in a Chicago suburb, and she spent spent much of college ODing on food porn, so she decided to make cooking her career. Here, she talks about how understanding Humm's vision helps her understand her own, how fancy stuff can mess up a dish, and how quickly cooks eat.
Why do you like cooking?
I really enjoy the idea of creating something that not only brings basic sustenance to people but can also bring so much satisfaction and comfort. It can be as structured and as creative as you want it to be.
What made you want to be in this industry?
College was the first time I really got to cook for myself, and I loved it. I loved throwing dinner parties for my friends. I loved what that brought to my life. As I was completing my degree, I came to the realization that sitting in a lab at a computer crunching data from experiments was not what I wanted to do with my life. So I decided to take this thing that I enjoyed so much and make it my career.
Wow, dinner parties in college -- what were they like?
I was a Food Network and food magazine junkie. Whenever I saw or read something I thought was cool, I'd make it into an excuse for a dinner party. Most adventurous endeavor -- turducken.
What is it like to execute someone else's vision?
It's really educational. When you try to execute someone else's vision, you have to have a clear idea of what that is, which is really difficult. But when you gain a better understanding of someone else's vision, you learn what you like and what you don't like, and that helps you gain a better understanding of what your own vision is.
So what have you learned about your own vision?
Food needs to have thought. It needs to make sense, but don't overthink it. The best dishes are usually the simplest that just focus on being delicious. When you get into trying to make this tuile or this emulsion or using this powder, the food gets cluttered and confused.
What are some lessons you've picked up?
Don't be afraid to ask for help.