Chefs Without Restaurants

Competitive Cooking at the Highest Level with Chef Corey Siegel

October 04, 2023 Chris Spear Season 5 Episode 206
Chefs Without Restaurants
Competitive Cooking at the Highest Level with Chef Corey Siegel
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Show Notes Transcript

This week we have chef Corey Siegel. You'll hear how Corey went from finishing dead last in his culinary SkillsUSA competition, to representing team USA with master chef Rich Rosendale at the Bocuse d'Or.  This episode is a behind the scenes look (or is it listen?) into the world of cooking competitions at the highest level.

But you also might know Corey from his TikTok and Instagram videos where he cooks a recipe after the ingredients and equipment magically seem to fall from the sky. We talk about balancing his content creation with his job as Director of Culinary Development at Electrolux Professional.

Topics Discussed
Culinary competitions
Working with Rich Rosendale at The Greenbrier
Training with chefs Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud and Grant Achatz
Online video creation on TikTok and Instagram
Working with state-of-the-art cooking equipment at Electrolux Professional


COREY SIEGEL
Corey's website
Corey's Instagram, TikTok and YouTube
Corey's free cookbook

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Chris Spear:

Today's guest is Chef Corey Siegel. If you've watched any cooking videos on Tiktok, or Instagram in the past couple of years, you've probably seen his work. He's the guy who's standing there and almost magically, a bowl or a bunch of bananas falls from the sky. And then he makes his dish. But I've known about Cory for probably close to a decade now. On today's show, you'll hear how he went from finishing dead last at his SkillsUSA culinary tournament, to teaming up with Master Chef Rich Rosendale and competing at the Bocouse d'Or just a few years later. This is Chris spear and you're listening to Chefs Without Restaurants The show where I speak with culinary entrepreneurs and people working in the food and beverage industry outside of a traditional restaurant setting. I have 31 years of working in kitchens but not restaurants and currently operate a personal chef business throwing dinner parties in the Washington DC area. Traditional school was not something that Corey really loved. From an early age, he knew that he wanted to do something more hands on, and while he could have just as easily been a cosmetologist, he opted for the culinary world. It's actually something his whole family had been involved in. His mom went to the CIA and his dad knew James Beard and Julia Child. Today you're gonna get an inside look at the world of cooking competitions. But not the kind you see on Master Chef or Top Chef Cory was drawn to the world of ACF style cooking competitions, and ultimately competed at the bow Cousteau or which is commonly referred to as the Culinary Olympics. And he's also another chef who opted not to take the traditional path of restaurant cooking. He's been with Electrolux professional for eight years now working with sophisticated kitchen equipment like combi ovens. One of the great things about his company is that they've allowed him to create content and continue to build a name for himself in the culinary world while still working with them. This is something I think a lot of companies are struggling with these days. They exclusively want their employees to represent their business and their brand. But is there a way to find a middle ground. I've had a number of guests on the show who talked about social media and how they've grown through content creation. Like many of them, Korea's grown consistently by creating good content, and today has almost 80,000 followers on Tiktok. We talked about his path with that and the opportunities it's created. So I'm gonna get out of here and let you enjoy this week's episode. If you are indeed enjoying it, the best thing you can do is let people know about it, share this episode, or share the show in general on your social media feed. I'd love it if you tag me on Instagram at Chefs Without Restaurants. And if you're new to the show, there are 204 other episodes you could go listen to after this. Go ahead and work your way backwards. And if you have a product or service you'd like to get in front of my audience and think the show is a great fit. Reach out to me at chefs without restaurants@gmail.com. So you'll hear my discussion with Corey after a brief word from this week's advertisers.

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Chris Spear:

Hey, Cory, how's it going? Thanks so much for coming on the show.

Corey Siegel:

Awesome, Chris. Thanks for having me.

Chris Spear:

I'm looking forward to talking to you. I feel like I've been following your career forever. Probably before, even like you had social media. And you know, being a chef and just kind of trying to stay on top of what's going on. I remember, you know, hearing a lot about you. And it seemed like you were such a young guy just kind of starting out in the culinary world.

Corey Siegel:

I appreciate that. Yeah, I mean, I definitely had a start. When I was young. I mean, like 15 I was dead set on making culinary team USA. So I was like super passionate and focused from an early, early age.

Chris Spear:

How did that happen? Were you interested in food and cooking, like from a very young age? I mean, I guess if you're starting in kitchens like 1415, you must have been

Corey Siegel:

so funny stories. There's kind of these parallels here, where food is definitely in my family. My mother is actually a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. And my father has this incredible story that maybe we'll circle back into. Spoiler alert, he actually knew like James Beard and Julia Child and things that I had no idea. Even after I graduated culinary school, I had lunch with him and found these things out and I was like, wait, what? And she's like, Yeah, how do you think your mother ended up at the Culinary Institute of America? So, for me, I got into cooking, because I hated going to school, hated high school. I didn't understand why we would go to school for eight hours a day, and then need to go home and do all this extra homework, do these projects do these things. And I had the opportunity to go to vocational program, junior and senior year that allowed me to either take auto tech, cosmetology or culinary arts.

Chris Spear:

And it's not cosmetology. Yeah.

Corey Siegel:

I figured that Culinary Arts was something useful that I could always feed myself and, you know, get a job in a kitchen somewhere things fell through. And so I went to the school. And the teacher that I had, his name was Scott Steiner. He was the first instructor that I had in any education that really gave me positive feedback, and was like, hey, you know, you can be really good at this. If you keep doing X, Y, and Z. You know, this could be a future for you. Hey, this tastes good. You could and I also loved how tangible it was and how fast Hey, you know, add a little more salt to this. Okay. Little salt tried again, whoa, completely different things. I was fascinated by, like that manipulation to change the way things taste, cook it a little longer, it changes the texture. So from I was always really into like science, like Earth Science was probably my favorite class when I was really young. And so that science, the changing of structure and flavors really excited me. But he actually was the one who got me into my first competition. It was a SkillsUSA. And out of 50 kids, I 100% came in 50th place I was dead last. And there's a super funny story about that. Because we we actually did this dessert, practice this dessert. And when we got there, they gave us completely different ingredients than what we were practicing with. It was an english trifle, and we were practicing with like whipped cream, but they want you to make a pastry cream. I've never made pastry cream before. So I'm watching the kid across the table from me and I'm doing everything he does. And it like comes out gray. It's not like yellow and silky. It's awful. But we finish. I'm like sweating. And I look at the kid next to me. I go man, that was crazy, huh? He's like, Yeah, I had no idea what I was doing. So the kid I was following the copy on Yeah, I picked the totally wrong person. But that sparked an interest for me, of hey, why did I come in last place? How come I didn't win? What do I need to do to get better and again, that that tangible action of being able to quickly improve instantaneously. Just got me super excited. And Scott took me to an ACF conference, the American Culinary Federation. And one of the speakers was Ed Leonard. Edie was the manager of culinary team USA at the time. And Scott looked at me and he said, you know, eight years from now, you're gonna try out for culinary team USA, and you're gonna be the youngest ever make it. I had no idea what that meant, what that was going to take. But that was the kind of that sealed the deal for me that I was gonna go after this goal, and be in the culinary arts. And it just kind of snowballed from there. So

Chris Spear:

were you someone who always was like a goal setter from a young age, I mean, to set a goal like that. I don't even know adults these days who necessarily have a goal like that? I wouldn't

Corey Siegel:

say I was a goal setter, as as a child, but I was very competitive. You know, I did everything. In the mall. There was like a bass, like a casting tournament, like fishing, just like in the mall. So you had to like casting get into this circle. And like I won, and I was like, I don't know, five years old or so. And I was so stoked. And then I did like a fishing tournament. I went out with somebody, and we caught the biggest fish. And I and I was in BMX racing. And I always came in second place, there was this one kid who had like, the right bike, the right helmet trained, and I just, I couldn't beat him. He was too fast. But I came in second, which is pretty close. I was always super competitive. And I think that again, just that how can I get better from doing these competitions, starting at a young age? was super exciting to me.

Chris Spear:

So then, I mean, you ended up obviously, doing really well. Spoiler alert, if anyone doesn't know anything about you, I appreciate that. But what did the next couple years look like then to you know, get on the team to do really well, some of the training that you went through? And then ultimately, how did that work out for you?

Corey Siegel:

Yeah, so I had to pick culinary school. Once I graduated, and I made the decision that I was going to follow my mother's footsteps and go to the best culinary school in the US and that was the Culinary Institute of America.

Chris Spear:

I'm gonna graduate so tread lightly here. Oh, okay.

Corey Siegel:

Oh, they they say it's

Chris Spear:

one of the top two schools in the country. Let's just Yeah.

Corey Siegel:

I was trying to there's funny things like I was trying to think what the Johnson and Wales one is. I was my one of the chefs, I worked for James Roberts. He would always say CIA stands for cash in advance. Oh, nice. I like that one. Yeah. Because there's no guarantee you're coming out any better than when you went in, but just cash in advance.

Chris Spear:

So So you went to CIA, great school, amazing school,

Corey Siegel:

amazing school, went to CIA and had to do an externship while we were there. And that was about like a three month where you take three months out of school, go work in the kitchens. And I decided to apply and go work for Edie Leonard, who was the manager of Team USA at the time. Go work for him at Westchester Country Club. And there was a part of this that was manifesting and telling everybody I talked to that. That's what I wanted to do. And it just again, like the more people I told that, the more people that said, Hey, you should talk to this person, you should talk to this port this person. So I went to Westchester, and there were several people there, Mike Matarazzo and Joelle Bertolli. Mike Matarazzo, was on the regional team for the Culinary Olympics and Joel Bertolli was the banquet chef at the time, both of those guys said, Hey, if you're really serious about this, making this Team USA, you need to go work at a place called the Greenbrier in white, Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Now, I have no idea what that was. But I went back to school, and okay, let me pause for a second. While I was there, one of the guys, Joe Alberto, he told me about this chef rich Rosendale. And he said, Hey, you know, if you're really serious about this team, you got to look up this guy, rich Rosendale. He's won all these metals total badass, like, you kind of remind me of him a little bit. And I'm like, oh, yeah, whatever. I got dinner service. Maybe I'll look it up. And I looked him up. And I was like, Whoa, like, how do I remind you of this guy? Like what? And he was like, just kind of your energy your spark, like, you look like you're hungry for you really want to go after this. So you know, again, they reassured me that the Greenbrier was the right move, went back to school, finished out CIA, and I kept applying down to the Greenbrier. And I ended up starting the same day that I graduated CIA, I moved down to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. No break and no funny. roll right into it. Yeah. And the funny story about it was Peter Timmons was the chef. At the time when I was going through CI, he was the chef at the Greenbrier. And I went to the career fair, I was so excited to go meet Peter Timmons, another Certified Master Chef. And Peter had a bicycle accident, if I remember correctly, so he wasn't there, and said, Oh, he'd love to meet you. You know, we'll be coming back in a couple months. And so I'm so excited for the Greenbrier to come back to the career fair. Peter had left the Greenbrier by then. And now I go to meet Peter Timmons at this career fair. And there's Rosendale standing there. So, you know, I've walked right up to him. And I just took this risk and said, hey, you know, Chef, I've looked up to you as as kind of a role model and somebody who's done some of the things I'm trying to do, I'd really love to come work for you at the Greenbrier. That'd be a big goal of mine to make the team and he's like, When can you start? We'd love to have you. So go down to the Greenbrier and I sign up for a three year apprenticeship program. And this apprenticeship program was 10 years worth of knowledge is so amazing. Anyone that's not familiar with the Greenbrier 750 room resort. There's like, I don't even know at least 10 dining outlets now from fine dining at high volume banquets of like 2000 people fast casual. So you got to see all this stuff, butcher shop and house.

Chris Spear:

Is that the mandatory period like three years for an apprenticeship? Are there shorter ones, or is it you're gonna commit to three years? Yeah, it's a

Corey Siegel:

three year program. And it's tough. There's nothing easy about it. And everybody tells you the whole time you're there, like you're not gonna quit, Are you, uh, you don't want to be a quitter like that guy. And it was really like, You got made fun of a lot if you quit. So it was kind of a toxic environment in that sense, because people would quit and then leave because they didn't want to get called a quitter and stay there. But it was really, really difficult. And I could definitely dive into what that program consisted of. But basically, while you're doing this apprenticeship program, or I'm sorry, while you're doing your basic work, like you're on the schedule, you know, seven days a week. It's funny when, you know, chefs talk to somebody that's not in the industry, because like a easy week for us is like 60 to 80 hours, right? It's not like a 40 hour week. So So you'd be working anywhere from like 60 to 100 hours as your quote unquote day job. But then all throughout the year, we had these different assignments. So doing like a buffet platter, three course meal, mystery baskets, all these different things that we're training, that kind of bread you for the Culinary Olympics. But a lot of the people, that wasn't something they were interested in the competition aspect, it was just part of learning those skill sets. So you would work like an average day was like, you'd work. I don't know, your schedule that 12 to come in. But you got a call because one of the breakfast people called out, so you get a call at 6am. So now you're working the breakfast line, because you just wanted to be there, right? And they knew that. So you're working 6am You work breakfast, then you start prepping everything, then you work dinner, you're done around like 11pm Once you're all cleaned up, and then maybe you have a showing the next day at 8am. So some of this food. Like there's a part that a lot of people don't understand about this food where it was actually like glazed in like a clear gelatin coating. And the idea is that you could put this food up. And it was more about the aesthetics that all the details were done correctly. And you can see the execution. And there was a way to grow really quickly. But the food could sit up there for a long time while you went through everything about so now. You have to stay up all night, like cooking your food, cooling it down, slicing it, dipping it in gelatin plating it and now you've put up your food at eight o'clock, you get some great feedback, some of its really harsh. And then hey, guys, we need to break everything down because you need to start prepping for dinner service. And you just kind of rolled right into it. Throw on top of this, that I went to rich Rosendale and said, hey, you know there's this competition coming up through the ACF. I really want to go after it. Do you think it's worth my time? Or should I be focusing on stuff here? He kind of looked at me with this like strange look. And he returns with would you like to do a competition with me? And my like heart dropped on like, yeah, I don't even know what it is. Don't even tell me more. Let's go. I'm your guy Sign me up. And he said, it's called the beaucoup store. Have you ever heard of it? No idea. Gave me a couple of videos like DVDs to watch DVDs at the time. So I watched those and I'm like, wow, this is crazy. And the beaucoup stores this competition that happens every two years in Lyon, France, as you know. And you have to first get selected as the US candidate. And then you go on to compete against 2423 other countries around the world. And it's like also referred to as Culinary Olympics. So in my training, or in my goal setting and trying to get to make culinary team USA, I now have this curveball of getting to do one of the biggest competitions, period with one of the most veteran competition chefs in the world. And now I get to do this training with him and go compete. And I have the opportunity to learn from Thomas Keller, Daniel blued, Grant Achatz, Tim Hollingsworth, Gavin casein, it all these guys that were helping us kind of tweak and two years of intensive training, we go to Leone, and we ended up competing we finished seventh in the world, which is not where we wanted to finish. But looking back on it. It was it was crazy man, I could tell you stories for hours about that competition. But you know that have so we finish in France. And I come back and maybe like four months later, is the tryouts for this culinary team USA that I set out eight years ago to try and make the team for. So I go first, to actually Charlotte to Johnson and Wales and do the cold food tryouts. That's where I got my first gold medal as a professional, because I was always competing as a student. And then this was my first like professional competition where I was able to get a gold medal. I got a lot of Silver's a lot of bronze. I have plenty of certificates, I could probably wallpaper my house with with thanks for coming certificates. And this was my first gold medal. And then we went to Chicago a couple months later did the hot food competition tryouts. And the day before my thing it was my 22nd birthday. I got an email that said made officially made Team USA. That's amazing.

Chris Spear:

I mean, 22 I graduated from culinary at 22. And I feel like I was still a knucklehead and hadn't done anything like that. Rich is amazing. For my longtime podcast listeners, they might know or if they didn't, he was on the show a couple of years ago. I'll link that in the show notes. I'm so fortunate because I'm here in Maryland. He's got now roots in Virginia, which is all of 20 minutes away from me and I'm not in the ACF anymore, but I was but I remember the first night I had never met him knew of him. And we're at a chapter meeting and he just shows up and I'm like, like I turned on my friend. I'm like, what the, like retros and dales here, you know, it was like crazy. And he's like, Yeah, I didn't know. He's like, Yeah, you know, my wife's from here we moved back, I'm opening a place. So I got to know him through that. So that was really cool. And you know, even at his his restaurant here, it's like, you wouldn't necessarily expect him to be there. And I, you know, stopping to get a brisket sandwich. And there he is. And I tell people all the time, like, I don't think people even understand the magnitude of that. It's like, no, no, this guy is like, the real deal. Like, even if you think that's just the places doing like barbecue and mac and cheese, like, this guy is baller. And by the way, he's traveling all over the country and world and doing world class workshops, and all kinds of stuff. So I've really enjoyed getting to know him over the years. What was it like not only working with him, but when you talk about guys like Grant Achatz, Daniel blue Thomas Keller, especially at such a young age, was that intimidating? Like what was that like just being around such a wealth of culinary knowledge?

Corey Siegel:

It was insane. I mean, people that I read about or had their cookbooks and you hear like this folklore about going to try their restaurants one day, I mean, now you're in the same room as them. And they're, you know, critiquing the food that you're making and throwing around, hey, you know, this doesn't work or what if you try this and, like, even one of the things I really remember was Thomas Keller saying, you know, we had to put out a platter. So for the beaucoup story you put out it's constantly changing when we went you had to put out a fish plate. And then you had to put out a beef platter for 14 people. The platter was paraded around a stadium of like 4000 people all cheering and screaming in different languages. It's It's insane. Have anyone hasn't heard of that you should look up on YouTube, this competition. So then the platter comes back and you play everything off the platter. And we had like some crackers and kind of the architecture of the way the plate was built. I remember, you know, Tom is saying like, Hey, have you guys sat down and eat this plate? And we kind of looked at each other like, No, we're always standing up, you know, it's what chefs do, we stand up. And so we're always standing up. He's like, we'll sit down, you know, here, grab a knife fork, look at this. Like when you go to cut this, you knock this thing over, and you hit this and it's not like easy to eat. And it's just cool to see these masters of their craft. And again, these like, people that I'm looking up to at this time, I was like, man, one day I'll meet these people. They're all in the same room. And it's just, it's just super cool. And everyone was extremely nice, thoughtful. Always, like made it a point to make me feel comfortable. There was never this like posh attitude. I mean, Daniel blued. I talk about him all the time, like the energy he has, how nice he is. We did a dinner in Texas, like a fundraising dinner. And I was so scared to ask him for a picture. You know, just like, you know, I'm like a 22 year old kid or whatever. No, even I'm like 19 or 20. And we had a somebody like coordinator and I went up to her. I was like, Hey, do you think you know chef? Danielle would take a picture with me. She was like, yeah, come on. We go over. And she's like, Hey, Chef Cory wants to take a picture with you. And his reaction was just priceless. He turns around he goes what No, Cory wants a picture with me. Come on. I'm honored Get over here. And there's just you know, it's just fun like thoughtful and it just helped that energy of like all working together.

Chris Spear:

Cooking that's unlike anything I think for the most part is culinary and you experience in the culinary world and you I went to culinary school we had garmont J class and advanced buffet catering and you're doing though though I'll say weird stuff right like it's not you don't see any of that in restaurants which is where most of us end up even if you end up in like kind of catering and banquet stuff like show flaw I posted a picture on my Instagram last week as a throwback but it was from one of my things you know classes we made a mashed potatoes and we shaved it like a ham leg and then coated it and show FDA for anyone who doesn't know what that is it's like milk that's thickened and it sets you know kind of weird and then we took like black some kind of like black paste decorating paste right and cut out decorations and put it on there like In what world is that even exist for culinary you know? And that's what you guys are kind of getting into with these really high end but you know, I love the charcuterie aspect and the patties and all that stuff but really working with a lot of gelatins and more on the artistic when you talk about Culinary Arts that's really an art and you don't see it that often and the day to day culinary world.

Corey Siegel:

Well, you know it's also Though fascinating, just looking. So when we competed that was 10 years ago, and then did the culinary world cup and the Culinary Olympics after that, that time. But when we wanted to do something that was a little different, like we wanted to mold something, in a way, I have a corn piece that I did that, I'd like to say I inspired the the molded corn revolution, as I see it everywhere now. But the idea of like, hey, how do we take this corn puree and make it into something else. And we would have to like, take a piece of corn and roll it in a silicone mixture and let that set up. And then like cut that out and make another mold out of like that casting, and then cut it out with a circle cutter. So now you could like take this corn puree with like a little bit of like stabilizer, pour it into this mold, freeze it and pop it out. Now you had this circle that had the pattern of corn, but it was just like silky smooth corn puree. And it's amazing the what we did back then, of having a custom make these things to now how accessible these things are, and how the competitions are changing. So like a lot of the Nordic countries are really leading the path. And a lot of this stuff, they're taking these competition things, and now putting into the restaurants, because it's so much more accessible. The techniques were always there, but now things are more accessible. So to do these things that were kind of far fetched and outlandish. I mean, I see on Tiktok and Instagram, like, hundreds of things, and we go back and I go back and forth with a buddy of mine, like, Oh, I remember when we did this 10 years ago, and, and it's like that thing has like 10 million views. And it's like,

Chris Spear:

you know, there's kind of a resurgence in some of this type stuff. You know, the everyone's got the silicone molds now and is making the little twills. And having that it's like, yeah, see that and all the restaurants now. But that was something that you really didn't see. Except, you know, like maybe like Michelin three star type places a few years ago, but now it's

Corey Siegel:

an it make that same mold. Like I don't want to say that doesn't take skill anymore, because now you're just making a twill batter you like spread it into this mold and bake it off and you pop it out and you have this incredible like lacy design. Like when I was at the Greenbrier, that stuff didn't exist. So we would have to, like custom make, I remember buying a Cricut cutter like for scrapbooking, and had it cut me out in octopus shape that I like, had to design the octopus sheet. And then it cut it out. So I had like a little piece of plastic. And then I had like a cracker dough. And I'd put it on there. And I'd be like, hey, nobody talked to me. And it would take me like an hour to cut this thing out with an exacto knife. And then I'd have to bake it and like seeing the edges and, you know, hours to make this one thing that now you can just spread into a mold and bake it off. So that accessibility is huge for the industry.

Unknown:

So what did you do

Chris Spear:

after this time when you were done at the Greenbrier? You know, kind of post competition era? Where did your career path lead?

Corey Siegel:

So while after I mean after doing the boat cruise, you know, I went, as we mentioned, and that was all just kind of this curve sidewall training to go to the culinary world cup. And we competed and got three gold medals. There. I'm sorry, two gold medals, one in the hot category one in the cold and ended up placing fourth in the world. And then we went on to the Culinary Olympics, which was in Erfurt, Germany. And we walked away with three gold medals, one in the hot one in the cold. And then one that was the overall championship. And it was goosebumps. I mean, I remember. I remember when they announced second place that I texted my mom. And I said, Well, that was a waste of four years. And she said, What do you mean? And literally, like, as I got our text back that said, What do you mean, they announced USA, that we had won first place? And there's videos of us like we were jumping on the chairs, we were just in such disbelief that the you know, that we were able to do that is insane. And then after that, you know I had the opportunity. So So kind of during that time, once I left the Greenbrier, I ended up a Electrolux professional, was a sponsor of culinary team USA. And there was an executive chef position that was opening. One of my teammates reached out said, Hey, these guys are looking for somebody. I think this could be something you're interested in. And I applied and I thought that it was going to be I thought the position was to be the cafeteria, manage the cafeteria at a vacuum cleaner company. I didn't have any interest in the role. But I went in took the interview anyways, because I hadn't really interviewed up to that point like Got a serious professional interview? So I said, Hey, you know, got bought a suit, flew down to Charlotte, checked it out. And we're in this meeting and they're talking to me like, hey, yeah, so like, how many people do we feed? What are the challenges blah, blah, blah. And they're like, oh, it could be two people. It could be 10. Doesn't I'm like, There's got to be 1000 people here. I don't understand long story short. Electrolux professional makes all these incredible things, combi ovens, blush, chillers, pressure, braising pans, food prep, like all these things I've never seen before. So they brought me into the kitchen, my eyes just lit up. I was like a kid in the candy store. I'm like, what, what are these things? So you cook for the people like, I don't know, I don't know what I just signed up for. But here, yeah, I'm your I'm your guy. Let's do this. And it really was super cool for me, because I got to completely shift to learning about the kitchen equipment of the future. And again, going back to these tools that are more accessible, right? So the things that can change the way you operate in the kitchen. And I was in a unique position now to be able to learn about that stuff, and educate other chefs about its value. And that was so cool for me. And it went from a shift in, you know, putting out the plates and making sure the diners were happy in that like everyday competition between yourself or trying to get that like, hey, look, we want to win, we want to get these gold medals, we want to go for this thing. And now be able to shift that into something where I really felt like I was changing people's lives every day in the kitchen to be able to show him this stuff. And you know, if they went went forward and put it in, because it's amazing, like the automation now, that's in the kitchens, you have to think completely differently.

Chris Spear:

So is your job, a travel job where you go out to places and try and do that or bring people to you or a combination?

Corey Siegel:

So I think I can summarize that with I was on the I was in hotels 120 Nights last year? It's a lot. Yeah, it is a lot. So the job has a lot of travel, and it wears a lot of hats. A first part of it is kind of the being a liaison between our sales team and the end user. So either the customer finds us or they find them. And now it's my role to be able to educate the customer and also find the right thing for their business. So they say like, oh, I want to see your scallops in the oven for dinner service. Like, yeah, the oven can do that. But that's not realistic for your operation. Like what else do you do? And oh, maybe actually you want this piece instead or a combination. So it's cool. You got to be like this hybrid like, consult in educator, we would hold world chef's seminars, we'd fly all the chefs in and we'd host like a barbecue seminar and do smoking, and all different stuff in the equipment. But then once the equipment was installed, I was managing a team of chefs that between all of us, we would go around. So every piece of equipment that was purchased, got chef training, so I got to travel all around the country, or equipments Made in Italy, so I got to work with our colleagues in Italy and learn from those guys are super tempted to go to Italy. I did yeah, I've been over there a few times, like super fortunate for that. And that was actually part of my training as I signed up for this new role that I was super scared about because I didn't know anything about it. And they're like, Hey, do you have a wife, dog? Anything? I'm like, No, that's kind of weird. Go, we want to send you over to Italy for training and see the factory and all this. I'm like, okay, yeah, like, I don't know what I just did. But this was super cool. And I've been with them for about eight years now. And it's been it's been incredible. And there's always, again, we're in all these different hats, like, there's always an aspect of creating different recipes. So at the time, there wasn't a like you just bought like a $40,000 oven for your restaurant. And there was nothing to take away other than the owner's manual of like how to work this thing. So we had a photographer come in, had one of our chefs come in, and we put together like a recipe book of 150 recipes of how to use like a combi oven. And I was super cool for me, I got to learn as we're building this whole thing. But then we had something tangible to be able to hand out and say hey, here's here's all these recipes. Here's how you actually get the most out of this because like this oven can do so many things. It can smoke, it can grill cvwd, low temperature, steaming, jarring. You name it proof and baking, but most people use it as a convection oven and a steamer. So there's all these things in between and I really enjoyed helping bridge that gap. So I got to do a lot of like be really involved with the marketing team. And marketing has become such a passionate of mine. And that's taken me to where I'm at now. I still work for Electrolux professional, but they're super supportive and me also simultaneously building a brand and trying to focus on food content creation, podcasts, all sorts of things.

Chris Spear:

That's really great. I have a couple of things there. One, I love that you're able to do that I worked for IKEA, which I was in a unit and my friends were always like, why would you work at IKEA? There's so many great reasons why to work there. But one of the things I loved is we had combi ovens. And similarly, right like most of our staff in a place like Ikea were not trained staff, right. But they would use it to like, here's the button for the meatball, and here's the button for the other thing, but we had like, special caterings we had to do and I was in charge of like the staff dining is like, No, we need to figure out like, what is the best way to use this, but I just saw people who were like, here's the button for the meatballs, here's the button for the vegetables. So like, I really loved working with the people who would come out and train us on how to do that I was kind of like the in house guy at our unit on how to set up the combi oven. And I love that like oh, but if you go with like 15% humidity, the first 20 minutes and then like finish it off at this. So I was always like adding buttons to the Combi units. That was my favorite thing.

Corey Siegel:

And so many of those things were like the total opposite that you were taught in culinary school or throughout your career, like how to roast the chicken go super hot and then finish low. Well, no, here you go low with moisture, and then finish hot. Like all these like backwards crazy things.

Chris Spear:

But I also think it's cool that they're giving you an opportunity to be yourself because I don't see that everywhere. You know, when I was still working a job, I have my own business. Now, I was told pretty much that like, I was actually told by someone high up at my company that anything I created while I was employed by them, they technically could own like that if I were to release a cookbook, I did not have ownership rights of that. Like I'm working for you 70 hours like in the building when I come home. And it's two in the morning, and I'm creating recipes and I blog it you don't own that, like I don't care what anyone says like, that's not how that works. But seeing these companies stifling. And now the opposite with social media, it seems like more of these businesses are really saying it's a selling point like, oh, not only is this guy really skilled and knows his thing, but like, Do you have any idea who this guy is like, he's got 80,000 Tiktok followers? Like, that's pretty cool. Do you know?

Corey Siegel:

Yeah, I mean that that support is super uncommon. And you're absolutely right, it's changing. And these big corporations are realizing that in supporting more I mean, I've had nothing but support from the company. And I'm super fortunate for that. And they continue to ask like, Hey, how can we help you? Is there anything we can do to, like, partner together? Keep going? And just, you don't find that everywhere? And if you do, it's like you said, if everything you do, there's still kind of that like, oh, well, what's the what's it really doing? You know, is he working like two jobs is he moonlighting as he got out and it's like, no, just trying to like, grow something and build something while giving 100% to what I'm here to do.

Chris Spear:

But it's great, because like, that's kind of how I rediscovered you. I clearly knew of you years ago, I had in my mind, you know, this young guy who's on the culinary team and all this. And then all of a sudden, you know, I'm on tick tock or Instagram. And there's this guy, and he's the guy who does the videos where shit falls out of the sky. And then he makes a dish with it. But that's, that's your signature, right? Like you're standing there. And then there's like gigantic bowl or a pineapple or loaf of bread like falls from the sky. And I was like, Oh, holy shit. Like, that's Cory. Like, I hadn't seen you for a number of years. And I know, we've been connected on LinkedIn and Facebook and stuff. But I didn't really know what you're up to. And then all of a sudden, like, every day, I was just seeing these cooking videos from you.

Corey Siegel:

Yeah, I mean, man, you know, I was always passionate about building a brand. And putting out you know, taking lots of pictures, documenting the journey giving something to not only look back on, but to kind of build a a presence that people want to be associated with and work with and use that to create other opportunities. I have, I haven't like coined this phrase, like some kind of like saying this the first time but the premise of it is like, I live a luxurious life with no money. And I by building a brand and a and overall working on myself and trying to be somebody that people want to work with and grow with and be around. I've been able and super fortunate to do things with people that I never could have afforded because of a skill set that I had, and also that relationship building. And I think the relationship building and the networking was so much more important than likes, comments, anything like that. It was about just trying to make friends with other people that are doing great things. And so from there, I kind of realized that You know, during COVID, I had a great friend of mine, Alex dispense. He's like sub chef on all the platforms and he's now over a million on Tik Tok. It's crazy. Yeah, he told me about tick tock. He's like, Dude, you gotta get on tick tock, you gotta get on this thing. And like, oh, that's for people that do dances like, you know, I'm a professional chef, like, I don't dance on things. It's like, no, man. I'm just like, literally making pizzas while I'm at work. And it's getting way more views. Like I've grown my following 10 times what I had on Instagram, in like, a couple weeks versus, you know, the 10 years, I've been on Instagram. And so I started doing some videos on Tiktok. And they didn't perform very well. So I was like, Oh, this is stupid, just like I said, you know, tic TOCs a waste of time. But then I saw people that were just had these massive followings on Instagram. And they were I mean, Alex would call me every day, like, Dude, I just got 10,000 followers off this video, I got this, I'm growing and like all the rock just tagged me like this is crazy, like tiktoks, this whole crazy thing. So I started looking into it more, and saw people that didn't necessarily have the same. They didn't didn't have the same culinary training. But they either had a business background, or a great personality, taught themselves to cook, and we're creating these entertaining videos that would get them massive following. Now you're seeing like people that are super talented. You know, Nick is one of those guys. Joshua Wiseman is one of those guys. So you have all these talented guys that are now doing these videos. So you have people that like, didn't come up in the culinary world that have learned these different skills, and are teaching people through entertainment. You have really talented chefs, like these guys we just mentioned, that are doing these videos, and they're incredible. Like the stuff like Joshua, Wiseman's videos are amazing. And he's such as super nice guy, I was able to jump on a call with him for 30 minutes. And he just gave me so much like he was so present, he gave me everything, like, hey, yeah, maybe you shouldn't do this, but maybe try doing this thing, or go after this. Because this is going to be a five year commitment for you instead of this. And he was just so real about that journey. And not just like, oh, yeah, it's super easy. Go for a kid, which I really appreciate it. But you have all these different layers of people. And then of course, you have people that like can't cook to save their life. They have millions of followers, and so you have all these different levels. But I noticed the traction with reels in trying to compete with Tik Tok. And I said, Hey, if I want to grow my following, I need to start making these reels. I need to figure out a sequence. So I studied everybody I knew that was doing it right. All their different, okay, you need a hook, you need this? Are they talking over the video? Is it a voiceover? Are they looking at the camera and talking? Is there you know, what are the things you need to take away from all this stuff, but ultimately, trying to grow through that reels platform. And after like 10 videos, I did a Nutella banana bread that got like 4 million views on Instagram. And I was like, Whoa, this is crazy. And my following jumped by like 15,000 followers from that one video. And it was just so crazy to me that from like posting one video like that, you were able to start growing and and it was all growing again, building towards that brand connecting with these different people. And there's even an ego part that I had to drop. Because with Instagram, like you don't want to mess up your following count, right? You want to have a big following and you don't want to follow too many people. And that's such an egotistical thing. And it's such a Sheffy thing to like, oh, I don't want to follow too many people you know, I want people think less than me. But even me, I had to start going Hey, some of these people that didn't come up in the same culinary like world they didn't go through the same trials and tribulation I did. They're still super successful and what they're doing right now, and they're doing it properly. And that's the kicker is that they're doing it properly. And I started going okay, I'm gonna follow all these people and I had to like let my guard down say let me be more open. Let me reach out to these people and collaborate, try and collaborate or shoot my shot. I mean, I've there's so many, like big time creators, I've reached out to that I was so scared to like message and a lot of them have not messaged me back or followed me and some of them were like, yeah, man, I'll jump on a call with you. No problem. Let's chat like, and just super open. And part of that scariness is like just, you gotta just go for it and be a part of it.

Chris Spear:

I wish I went harder earlier. I mean, I'm a big Gary Vee fan. He was talking about it forever. When it was musically I actually went and saw him in person and it was like 20 He at and and he's like, go go home and do this every fucking day, do it five times put it on musically, and I'm just like I like I don't even know what to do. Like I just I couldn't figure out what that meant for a chef in 2018 before it was even Tik Tok, and I still I'm like, Man, if I had gone like, super freakin hard back then, like, who knows, you know, but you can still have those viral moments. That's the interesting thing. Like it's not too late, it's maybe a little harder than it was, you know, 2020 2021. But still, you see it all the time. So when put a video up, and you're like, Oh, crap that got 25,000 views in a day, like it can happen, and it just starts rolling from there.

Corey Siegel:

Yeah, and, you know, it's, uh, you nailed it with the COVID. Everybody was on their phones, nobody had anywhere to go. So getting popularity quick was much easier than than it is now. And I have no regrets. Every day, like, Man, I should have, I should have listened, Alex, I should have kept posting, I should have just figured this out sooner, like, part of me feels like I'm too late to the party. But the other time goes back to where you have to separate that. And it's not just about a number and trying to grow a following. It's about building a brand, building something that people want to work with working with good people getting to do cool things together, and just growing together collectively with people.

Chris Spear:

And you know, keeping the context like you have a ton of followers. I was listening to a video the other day, I think it was maybe like Alex Hormoz here. So he was talking about like, if you had 400 followers, like you don't think that's a big deal. But like, Could you imagine if you had a room and you're speaking to 400 people in the room, you'd be psyched? Do you think that was crazy, you're like 400, people like came out to hear what I had to say. And it's like, we now it's like average for you to have a couple 1000 Like, everyone's got at least 2000 followers on some platform, right? And you're like, but you're always looking at the guy who has, you know, 20,000 100,000 a million, but like, that's still a lot of people who are kind of, you know, really interested in what you have to say and do. And I think if you can keep grounded a little bit, especially, you know, how do you connect with those people. And that is, I think one of the challenges, especially with some of these bigger creators, because they're not all doing their own social anymore, and you can't just DM them, you know, it's not as easy to just send, you know, one of these guys that DM and say, Hey, what's up, like, it might be their social media manager, like I've always wanted to kind of manage my social media stuff.

Corey Siegel:

Well, it's funny too, that you mentioned, the the numbers game and we we get numb to you see a real take off and you get numb to these or you see like, a video where it's three seconds long, and somebody literally put like ketchup on a burger. And it has 10 million views. You're like, I don't understand how this video has 10 million views. I've been putting all this effort in and doing all this work. But that, you know, somebody literally putting ketchup on a burger got 10 million views. But I remember talking, it was actually on one of my podcast episodes, and I had Alex, you know, sub chef on. And I was like, man, you know, my last video I did. It only got like 15,000 views. And he's like, Bro, that's Madison Square Garden sold out. Like, how can you say that? It only got 15,000 views? And you're like, huh, when you put it like that, that's insane. Like,

Chris Spear:

and then maybe like, you don't have to overthink it because I get frustrated because I will break out the lights and the camera and do like a how to it's a recipe video, like, Oh, I got 400 views. And then like last week, I was making French onion soup. And I like to cast iron skillet. And I was just like karma lysing the onions. And it had like 2000 views in an hour. And I'm like, and it was a three second reel. And it was using an audio clip from the office. And I was like, I just need to stop overthinking it like not only do I have to break out the lights and the cameras and make a big deal of this like some days it's just funny content using a cuz it was a clip. If you watch it off, it's like Kevin, I think it was him like exercising or something. He was exhausted. Like, I can't keep doing this forever. And someone's like, it's been three seconds, you know, but it was like funny because carbonizing onions takes like two hours. Yeah. But it was just like, it was stupid. I was like, wow, that got like 2000 views and like an hour maybe I just need to be doing more of this like day in the life video stuff. And it doesn't always have to be making like a full on recipe that takes me five hours to do.

Corey Siegel:

It's something that resonates with people. Right? Yeah. caramelizing onions always takes forever. And it's like, oh yeah, I can't keep doing this forever. And it's just one of those things where it just it resonates with people and everybody can say, Oh yeah, I've had to do that before and whether it's cooks, people that aren't in the industry, whatever. It just connects and sometimes those are the things but it's also again, like finding that doing things for virality any video I've tried to do For virality purposes does absolutely terrible every single time. One because my expectation is super high, but to like, my heart's not in it, it's not something I truly believe in. So maybe it's like not plated, right? Or it's not whatever. And it's, you know, whenever I chase that, like, let me do something that I think is going to go viral. It doesn't stay true to my brand. It makes me upset when it doesn't do well. And it's just this whole, like, it's not aligned with that goal of building, you know, a brand or community or something.

Chris Spear:

I have a way that I like my podcast to be and it goes against sometimes some of the, you know, I say conventional wisdom, whether it's the length of the show, like, I like an in depth conversation, you know, we're rolling up on an hour here, there's not a terrible amount that I'm going to cut from it. I like to go deep there. You know, I don't tease it out the way people do I don't have this like crazy like radio, hook at the front like, Hey, do you want to learn how to competition chef? Stick around? Because Cory is gonna tell you how to do it. Like, I just like, that's not my Oh, no, it's pretty good. Yeah, maybe that will be the teaser. Yeah, all that out and drop it at the beginning, maybe we'll get a bazillion downloads. But you know, just like, yes, I want to tweak things as best I can. And if it fits, for the show I'm trying to make in the format, great, but I'm not looking to you know, do it at any cost. And if that means kind of like losing my voice and my style, I would rather connect with the people who want to listen to the show that I want to make and listen on the guests I

Unknown:

want to have totally. What's your uh, do

Chris Spear:

you have aspirations like the culinary field? Are you thinking ahead of like, what you want to do? Do you have goals in sight within this career? I mean, you're clearly looking to build an audience. But to what end?

Corey Siegel:

I mean, I think ultimately, there's a couple pillars, but I just had a close friend of mine, that was, you know, hit by a drunk driver hit him, hit him and his wife from behind, knocked him off the road. And you know, unfortunately, he was killed instantly. He was my best friend. And something I told him all the time he would, he was so passionate about like business, you are amazing chef, and you're so passionate about business. And he would always eat call me 100 times a day with some like crazy idea. Like, oh, man, dude, you know how you ordered nostril jig for your last video? What if we go and buy ostriches and we start like a farm, we can get it like an hour from here. And then we can start. Like we can ship on build an E commerce brand bought. And it was like, ah, you know, it's, I don't think I'm gonna wake up every day going, hey, yeah, let's build this ostrich farm, you know, but like, I want you to be super happy with whatever you're doing every day. And, you know, especially with with his life being cut so short, I'm really focusing now on finding so much joy in every single day. And going to bed setting the goals of the day or the week, saying, hey, how am I going to make this day super awesome, what am I planning that's going to make me super fulfilled. And some of those things are spending time with family, trying to spend tons of time with, with my parents and go on trips with them, try to create opportunities that they maybe haven't had, and take them somewhere they haven't been and go do some cool traveling and II You know, spending time with my girlfriend, and she's vegan. So I like try to learn some vegan recipes and trying to cook more at home for her. But a big passion of mine is going back to that accessibility again, you know, my grandparents or great grandparents didn't have access to planes and been able to fly, be across the country the same day, I can something you know, I take away from my job. Now I'm constantly on these planes. And so one thing I really want to do as a like personal aspiration is just travel the world there are so many places that are so beautiful. So many places I want to go, again to meet the people eat the food, learn their stories, be a part of the culture. And what I'm trying to grow on social media is aligning with that and trying to work with different travel partners find these different brands. And again, like it doesn't necessarily matter that I don't have a million followers. Because I'm somebody I'm building something that people want to connect with and resonate, and hey, this is a real guy and whatever. So that is a big passion of mine. And then from a like a giving back standpoint, you know, I'm just constantly looking at like, hey, what can I do? You don't have those same things in the kitchen, where like you always had like a Comey or somebody around right that you could you could feed knowledge to or Hey, check this out. What do you think about this and like I had so many mentors and stuff. So I'm looking at now like how can I make a difference? Either in like our industry or people's lives or trying to feed people that don't have access to food can go into the accessibility? There's so many things that We have access to now but there's so many people that don't have access to those same things. So, between all those pillars, that's kind of why I'm doing that isn't that's not kind of why that's why I'm spending countless hours. And you know, it's so many hours even just put this podcast together, it's so many hours to put out this piece of these pieces of content, and build these things that most people just scroll by really quick and at best, maybe give it a double tap. And like it, you know,

Chris Spear:

well, I don't think you even always know, to what end these things are gonna happen. You know, like, like you said, building connections, right, the things that have come out of just me meeting someone, it could have been planned, you know, it's like, you go to a convention, you meet a bunch of people, you have a podcast, you have someone on you post some stuff on social media, maybe you DM some people, I'm not doing it to say get a new job or do something. But I think at some point, there's a combination of all those things and opportunity opens up whether it be for a job or just to travel or to work with someone for a one night pop up. You know, there's so many interesting opportunities, I think there's that just come up. And if you're doing what you love on a day to day basis, then you don't have to worry about that. Right. It's, you get I'm so blessed the the things that I've been able to do, and I have to be better at like slowing down and thinking about like, wow, I've done some really wild, awesome stuff. Like, I never would have dreamed of it. And it's like, you know, I've been thinking about my career. When I graduated, I graduated from culinary school in 98. Like, at the time being a personal chef wasn't a thing. Like, I mean, you could be a private chef or a rich person, but doing what I do didn't exist. And podcasting didn't exist, right. So just being open to how things evolve and the serendipity of it all. We're in a great industry to because there's, you know, some jerks in there. But I find overall, I think the people in the hospitality industry have been that I've encountered have been phenomenal. They're great people. They love helping people. Totally. And, you know, they're always looking out for you. And I think it's a great industry to be in in that regard. Well, I've loved having you on the show. Is there anything you want to leave our listeners with before we get out of here today?

Corey Siegel:

No, I mean, thank you, everyone, for listening. I would love to dedicate this episode to Kendall Ross, who, who we did lose and is incredible. But yeah, I mean, super fun chatting with you, Chris. It's been amazing. It's always fun for me to chat with new people and just kick around ideas. So yeah, just thanks.

Chris Spear:

Well, and most of our listeners know, I always link things in the show notes. So they'll be able to find all your social media you, like I said, already have a tremendous following. So I'm sure a lot of people know, but they will be able to go follow you if they've haven't seen your stuff for some reason.

Corey Siegel:

Yeah. And if anybody wants a free digital cookbook, I have one. I think it's like Cory Siegel, book.com. But it's like 30 recipes, I think, just food for a gathering. So if you want to some free recipes, go check that out.

Chris Spear:

I've got mine. I'll link it up in the show notes.

Corey Siegel:

Awesome.

Chris Spear:

But thanks so much. And as always, to our listeners. This has been Chris with Chefs Without Restaurants. Thanks so much and have a great week. You're still here, the podcast is over. If you are indeed still here. Thanks for taking the time to listen to the show. I'd love to direct you to one place and that's chefswithoutrestaurants.org. From there, you'll be able to join our email newsletter. Get connected in our free Facebook group, and join our personal chef catering and food truck database so I can help get you more job leads. And you'll also find a link to our sponsor page where you'll find products and services I love. You pay nothing additional to use these links, but I may get a small commission which helps keep the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast and organization running. You might even get a discount for using some of these links. As always, you can reach out to me on Instagram at Chefs Without Restaurants or send me an email at chefswithoutrestaurants@gmail.com Thanks so much.

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