Q & A with Ari Rosenson, Chef de Cuisine at Cut, Part 1: The Importance of Mom & The Value of Skipping Culinary School
Ari Rosenson, Chef de Cuisine at Cut, has had a career that's both atypical for a chef, and practically an anomaly in just about any industry during this era of diminishing corporate loyalty. That's because Rosenson has worked for Wolfgang Puck since he was a teenager. Yes, you read that right. As in, high school age.
And in another old-fashioned twist, Rosenson has his mom to thank in no small part for jump-starting his professional calling. Keep reading to find out how childhood chutzpah and teen tenacity lead to spending many years working up through the kitchens of Los Angeles's most famous chef. Check back later for part 2 of our interview with the Calabasas native, and Rosenson's essential grilling guide.
Squid Ink: A lot of how you got started was because of your mom, right?
Ari Rosenson: Absolutely. I'm 10 years old, I like cooking, didn't really know what. There was a newspaper article my mom had cut out on Wolfgang and the USDA and sauces or something like that. There was a big fight. They said pizza couldn't be pizza unless it had sauce. I had to do a biography, so I came home from school and I saw the article and I said, "hey Mom, I want to do it on this guy."
SI: A school project?
AR: Yeah. She was like, OK, although she thought I was B.S.ing a little bit. And so I hit 411, got Spago, and I was stuttering a little bit. Basically I got to the words "I want to meet Wolfgang," and then my mom grabbed the phone out of my hands. She talked to Wolfgang's assistant, was like "my son has to do this school report, would Wolfgang be interested in doing it?" And they said yeah, no problem. Wolfgang had to cancel a couple times for different reasons, and on the third time -- I think the day before the report was due -- I got to go to Spago, my mom was my "photographer," I had a little recorder, and I did this whole interview with him. It was fun.
SI: How much time did he give you?
AR: Two or three hours. We spent an hour before service chitchatting about food, he brought me upstairs, put the chef's outfit on me, gave me the full tour of the kitchen. I told him I had my signature omelette I made for my mom in the mornings. And then I showed him how to make my signature omelette, he was like, "oh that's wonderful!" Then he dropped me off with the pizza guy who showed me how to make pizzas. My mom and I had dinner. It was great.
SI: So how did you stay in contact with him?
AR: Every birthday dinner I would want to go to a different Wolfgang Puck restaurant. Spago, Eureka, Granita, Chinois. On my fourteenth birthday I went to Granita, and Wolfgang was there and I said, "remember me?" He said, "yeah yeah I remember you." I said, "I still like cooking, how do I get a job?" "You come work for me. You could either go to cooking school or become a chef at one of my restaurants."
Cut to two years later; 16, had a car. So I sent him a FedEx package with my picture with me and him, and was like, "you promised me a job, can I have one?" The next day his assistant called and said call the kitchen manager, you have a job.
SI: Where did you start?
AR: I started as a prep cook. The first week I cut every finger on my hand. I didn't know what to do. My mom thought they were going to fire me because I was a liability.
SI: You've been with Wolfgang Puck ever since?
SI: Did you go to culinary school?
AR: Never went to culinary school.