Wednesday, November 7, 2018

I’m Living My Dream 

Reynolds Culinary Alum Denton Taylor 

2018 Reynolds Graduate – AAS Culinary Arts & 

Culinary Arts Management, & 2018 Elby Winner

“I’m living my dream.” Denton Taylor’s enthusiasm pops like oil in a hot skillet. He has won his culinary lottery: a cooking position in the world-renowned Momofuku restaurant in Washington DC. As Denton talks about his work, his voice is full of boundless energy and open joy, byproducts of his achievement. That’s what you get when you go for your dreams - and you get them. Here’s what happened.

“I started following Momofuku when I started in Reynolds culinary program,” Denton explained. “I idolized David Chang, the Chef who started Momofuku. I loved his style and his outlook on food and how it affects the world, and our connections with one another. It was another level of thinking about food. Kind of a punk rock style. And, I wanted to be part of it.”

When he graduated from Reynolds, Denton sent three resumes to Momofuku, and never got a response. But, he knew what he wanted, and “no” was not an option. So he got in his car, drove to DC, walked in to Momofuku, and said: “I want to work here.” The Chef that day told him simply, “Show up tomorrow.”

And he did. His interview that day was a “stage” – (pronounced: staage) which involved working a hectic shift to demonstrate his knife and prep skills, all the while being peppered with questions by one of the army of Chefs on duty. Afterwards there was a 15-minute sit-down interview. “It’s a personality test too. They want to know if you fit the culture and the team.” When asked if he was nervous, Denton said, “No, not at all. Everyone was so accommodating. Even though everything was riding on it for me, I was prepared and confident. I was, however, extremely anxious the next few days while I was waiting to hear whether I got the job.”

Sure, his education taught him skills, how to handle pressure in the kitchen, how to work as a team, and it definitely fueled his passion for culinary, but perhaps the most important “take away” was flexibility. “My education enabled me to need a lot less time to get acclimated to a new environment. I can jump in to a situation quickly and get started. I may not be using all of my management and administration knowledge right now, but because I know it, I have a broader understanding and appreciation of why HR, Inventory, Costing – the business side – are all so important. It’s a valuable perspective.”

Denton’s days are long. He leaves for work at 7:30 a.m. to get to DC for his 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift. Usually he stays to help the evening staff, stretching his work day to 10 or 12 hours. But there is no place he would rather be. Momofuku offers incredible learning opportunities. “They offer scholarships to travel around the world to their restaurants and study with their Chefs. They have a Michelin style restaurant in Australia. I am going to write a scholarship paper and try to go. I can’t believe David Chang will read what I wrote!” This is the stuff of dreams.

“One thing I would tell other culinary students if I had the chance,” Denton says, “and I know it sounds like a cliché – but just GO AND DO IT! If anything seems unobtainable, out of reach, or just a dream, don’t be afraid, just go for it. That’s what I did, and I got my dream. I still pinch myself when I go to work and see “Momofuku” on the door. I say, no way I really got this job!

Momofuku means “lucky peach.” Yes, Denton is a lucky guy, but as Bruce Springsteen says, “When it comes to luck, you make your own.” Denton’s luck was born by study, work, determination, and an overwhelming desire to follow his dream. Reynolds is proud to count him among our alumni.