“I learned to follow correct procedure. I learned to let each ingredient speak for itself. But it was bigger than that, too. The school really changed the way I think.”
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
Current city: Walla Walla, Washington
Course of study: Classic Culinary Arts, Fundamentals of Wine, Restaurant Management
Graduation year: 2003
One food/beverage you can’t live without? all things pork
Describe your culinary POV in three words: keep it simple
Best food experience of all time? It was in San Francisco on my honeymoon, and my wife and I ended up eating at Fleur de Lys, Hubert Keller’s restaurant. It completely blew me away.
What would your last meal consist of? a perfectly roasted chicken.
Current position: owner and chef of Andrae’s Kitchen—Food Truck and Catering
How did you first get interested in cooking?
My dad was a business traveler, and I used to go with him on trips to these swanky steak houses. Later I ended up traveling a bunch myself since my stepdad was in the military. Food became my thing—finding cool new restaurants, trying to make the dishes myself.
How did you start pursuing cooking professionally?
It’s a funny story. I was running a landscaping business in Boise and also doing some catering on the side. One day a buddy who owned a restaurant said, “Listen, you seem to enjoy this. Why don’t you come help out?” So I gave it a shot, and lo and behold, I loved it. Within a year I was the guy’s saucier.
Were you thinking about culinary school then?
I was, but only vaguely. It didn’t really fit into my plans. I had a wife and a family. My landscaping business was doing well. But then André Soltner, a dean of the International Culinary Center, came and did a demo for some executive chefs in town. I basically lied my way in and ended up chatting with him afterwards. After that, I was like, “I’m going.”
Did you look at other schools?
Yeah, I thought about staying out west. But if you want to be a Hollywood actor, where do you go? New York City is the epicenter of cooking in America, and maybe the world.
Can you talk about your initial experience in the program?
I freaking loved it. I was 39 at the time. I left my family back in Boise, so the attitude was, “If you’re going to do it, then do it.” I immersed myself. I picked the brains of everybody I could. I volunteered for everything I could. If there was a meeting, I was there. If there was a demo, I was there. I wanted to be that guy.
Were the chef-instructors responsive to your enthusiasm?
Completely. I ended up becoming close with some of the chefs. Chef Sixto lived out in Jersey. I helped him landscape, and he took me hunting. Afterwards we butchered up a deer, and he showed me all these amazing techniques, stuff he’d learned from his dad.
What do you think you learned at the International Culinary Center that you’ve applied to your own career?
I learned to follow correct procedure. I learned to let each ingredient speak for itself. But it was bigger than that, too. The school really changed the way I think. One final exam sticks out in my mind. I was in the back, working off recipe cards—we were allowed to use cards if they were handwritten—and Chef Soltner came up to see how I was doing. When he saw the cards, he grabbed them, tore them up, and threw them in the garbage. “Andrae,” he said, “Cook from here,” and he pointed to his heart, “Not from here,” and he pointed to his head. I remember being like, “Alright, then, let’s do this.” That’s stuck with me ever since. It’ll stick with me forever.
How did the International Culinary Center help you develop your career after school?
They set me up with great opportunities. One chef-instructor needed a chef at Le Bernardin, so I got a try out. Later I met David Bouley, who’s a big friend of the International Culinary Center, and he asked if I wanted to come work at his place. It’s not complicated—if you go and apply yourself, you’re going to have opportunities to work in amazing places.
Any advice for somebody considering coming to the International Culinary Center from another career?
I’d say follow your dreams. But if you’re going to do it, do it. Immerse yourself, because your skill and your success will be directly determined by your passion.