Dallas' Most Missed Chef, Sharon Hage, on Consulting, the Dallas Scene and NOLA
Sharon Hage's restaurant York Street closed more than two years ago, but when I ask other chefs around the city what their favorite restaurant is, many still say, "York Street."
It was "small, local and chef-driven" before those words and ideas became marketing tools. When she closed her East Dallas gem, it was a sad day for the Dallas culinary scene. We caught up with the Detroit native recently to see what keeps her busy these days.
When did you initially get into cooking?
My junior year of high school I started going to vocational school half a day and that's how I really got started. I got my first prep cook job shortly after that. I've always just enjoyed cooking. It sort of found me. I've never thought about doing anything else.
What are you doing now?
I started my own consulting company. That's what I do now full time. I do the occasional guest chef if a colleague or restaurateur invites me into their kitchen to share space for a night or an event. I'm happy to do that. I also do private cooking in people's homes on special occasions and parties, but the consulting company keeps me busy.
Owning and running a restaurant can be utterly exhausting. Do you miss those days?
I don't think it's utterly exhausting. If you're doing what you love then you just really don't have that frustration. I think doing something you don't enjoy in a situation you don't enjoy is much more exhausting then putting in long days, standing on your feet. Obviously I've been doing it my whole life so it's what I'm used to.
More people that have never worked in a kitchen full time are the ones who talk about how exhausting it is. For those of us who do it, it's what we do. Doing something you don't love takes a much greater toll.
I still cook all the time.
Do you have any advice for chefs who are thinking about opening their own restaurants?
Definitely make sure you've spent enough time working in other people's restaurants or kitchen before you go out on your own. Also, your motivation to run your own business has to be equal to, or greater than, your motivation to craft your own menu. It's about a lot more than just the cooking and the food part of it. Certainly business and management experience is mandatory.
I get asked a lot what the best preparation was for owning my own restaurant, and it was absolutely being a chef in a large kitchen and having big management jobs. If you don't have the business part of it down, if you're not making good business decisions, you're not going to be around long enough to realize your culinary ambitions.
And really, don't be afraid to ask for help or advice. Nobody does it alone.
From whom or where did you learn the most?
That's almost impossible to answer. I learned so much from so many people. It's really about people who have high integrity and straight priorities. Every day you learn a little more from someone that has a different technique or introduces you to a new product, whether it's a vendor or someone cooking next to you. Or something that you read.
Reading and staying informed is also very important. It's really about surrounding yourself with people who work to bring attention to detail or have a concern for quality.