Name: James Knapp
Occupation: Chef De Cuisine, Common Plea Catering
Under the traditional French "kitchen brigade" hierarchy, the Chef de Cuisine is in charge of day-to-day kitchen operations, including menu planning, purchasing and cost control, and staff management. Read on to hear from James Knapp, a Chef De Cuisine with Pittsburgh's Common Plea Catering.
1. What does a typical day at work look like for you?
A typical day of work for me would be clocking in around 9 o'clock and gathering my contracts and recipes for the event my Executive Chef has assigned to me. I begin making soups and sauces, writing new recipes, and revising old ones. Around 2 o'clock I gather all of my team to pack the truck with food and props, then head to the event.
2. Why did you choose this career/industry?
After high school, I wasn't sure which direction I wanted to go. I could've gotten into the construction business like the rest of my family, but that didn’t make me feel as happy as rocking a Friday night dinner service on the line, and searing every scallop perfectly! Ticket machines spewing tickets to the floor, and banging out 250 covers in an hour.
3. What was your first job in the industry?
My first job in the culinary industry was a pizza cook at Pizza Hut.
4. Briefly describe your career path and how you got to where you are today.
I started out working in little mom and pop scratch kitchens—a few pizza shops and breakfast diners where I really developed the love for cooking. Shortly after I graduated high school, I enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School. Once I learned about all of the classical cooking, the history and techniques, I was hooked.
5. What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part about my job would be that there's always something different to do every day. I'm never stagnant, repeatedly doing the same thing day in and day out. There is always a different event, whether it be a plated dinner service, a buffet, or passed Hors D'oeuvres.
6. What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part about my job is the time spent away from my family. Being a chef is demanding work, and requires a lot of invested hours, as any job would.
7. What advice would you give to students interested in working in the hospitality industry?
Advice I would give to someone interested in the industry is always be willing to learn. Be motivated, reliable, and determined to succeed.
8. What achievement are you most proud of?
The achievement I am most proud of would be obtaining my degree from Le Cordon Bleu.
9. What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
When I am not at work I like to spend every single minute I have off, with my family. Relaxing watching movies with my kids and going outside to play.
10. Favorite dish to make (or eat)?
I'm not sure if I have a favorite dish to cook, I'm not too picky. But Italian cuisine would be my favorite to cook and eat.
PA ProStart Blog
The PA ProStart Blog is for Pennsylvania students and teachers of the ProStart Program- a nationwide, two-level high school career and technical education program that teaches culinary arts and restaurant fundamentals.