What was your first job in a kitchen?
My first job in the kitchen iss at my current catering company, Esprit Events in Manhattan. I started off as a line cook. Two years later, I earned my current position as the Executive Chef. Four years after accepting the position, our company has tripled in size. Esprit Events being a kosher catering company has been a big challenge for me as a chef. It isn't easy to make food not only look but taste just as good under strict kosher supervision, but we have mastered our work and now we are competing with the top non-kosher catering companies in NYC.
What is the first dish you ever mastered?
The first dish that I mastered was taught to me by my Grandma in Israel. She taught me how to make couscous from scratch. I learned the process of starting off with simple semolina grain and then cooking it, drying it out in the sun, then cooking it once more in a special pot shipped from Morocco and all of the tajins that go with it.
What is your signature dish?
Pan-seared Striped Bass with Chocolate Miso
Any stories of triumph from the kitchen? Disaster?
A story of triumph is that I got a call from the personal assistant of the Prime Minister of Israel that he was interested in having a catered dinner in two hours. His specific request was dover sole. I managed to get my hands on this fish and whipped up a 3-course meal for the Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, and Minister of Foreign Relations in an hour. A story of disaster is when we were setting up for a 400-person wedding at a prestigious venue in New York City, the door of our delivery vehicle wasn't secure and all of my striped bass fell out of the moving truck an hour and a half before the event began.
Who was your first cooking inspiration?
Definitely my mom. She taught me all of the cooking basics; some of her recipes are used today in my catering company. She has always been my number one fan and has supported my dream of becoming a chef in New York. Friday night dinners were a tradition that required cooking for large amounts of people over a two-day period. She taught me patience in the kitchen and love for the food.
What's the one piece of advice you took away from Hell's Kitchen?
The one piece of advice I took away from Hell's Kitchen is to listen carefully.
FOX Broadcasting Company - Guy Vaknin - Hell's Kitchen on FOX - Official Site