Luke Shaffer found his love for food from his Granny; making chicken fried steak by the time he was in junior high. While pursuing a BA in Radio/Film Broadcasting from the University of Texas, he was also working part-time as a server and line cook at a local restaurant. He later received a degree from a culinary school in Austin and had the opportunity to work at a variety of restaurants ranging from fine Japanese dining to a mom and pop cafe.
Luke is now a Chef Instructor at the Escoffier School of the Culinary Arts Austin, and shared with us his culinary journey.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the culinary arts?
I’ve always loved cooking since I was a little kid. I spent countless hours in my Granny’s kitchen soaking up all of her Southern cooking knowledge. As a waiter in college, I was still enamored with the kitchen and talked my way on to the line. That further fueled my passion and I was on to culinary school. Getting paid to cook? Yes, please! I love the learning aspect of this industry. No two days are alike – you’re always learning.
Is there an instructor from your own education who stands out in your memory?
I had one instructor in particular that really pushed us to think like cooks. We had learned tons of technique and history, but we needed to start applying practical restaurant knowledge and that is what this instructor taught us. He gave us the freedom to be creative (and make mistakes).
What do you love most about being an educator with Escoffier?
I love the fact that we get to learn about ingredients, techniques, and experiences from students from all over the world. We’re not just boxed into our region. The freedom that this program offers our students is great, but it also really forces them to learn about time management, priorities, and thinking like a chef. They have to learn to “make it work”.
Can you summarize a typical day on campus?
That’s a tough one, because every day is different! Some days we have live sessions, so I’m preparing material for that. Some days we are doing discussion boards, so I’m reading and participating in those discussions. That’s another great thing about this gig: there’s never a dull moment!
Best piece of advice you give your students?
Get in the industry NOW if you’re not already. Culinary school is an amazing opportunity to get a good base of knowledge, history, and techniques, but I definitely recommend that you start applying that knowledge, history, and technique in a real world scenario as soon as possible. You can learn so much from working in the industry that will help with school and vice versa.
What is one of your proudest career moments to date?
One of my proudest moments was being promoted to Executive Sous Chef by a Certified Master Chef. He had taken over a restaurant where I was a line cook. After a few weeks, he came to me and told me how much he appreciated my drive and leadership and that he wanted me to take on a bigger role.
How would you describe your cooking philosophy in five words or less?
Love what you do.
What was the last dish you cooked at home?
It was a rare 40˚F March day in Austin yesterday, and we needed something warm and cozy for dinner so I made a bacon and corn chowder.