Inspiration: See The Food and People That Inspired These Chefs

Being a chef is more than simply a profession. It is passion; it is inspiration; it is a living art form assaulting the senses; different but no less profound than a beautiful painting or a timeless work of literature.

As is the case with any artist, inspiration is a key ingredient in the making of any great chef. It percolates in youth and builds around the family dinner table.  

The sights, smells, tastes and love builds a yearning to create shared warmth and memories with a shared experience.

Inspired by the greatest chefs of all – mom and dad – culinary pros learn that a great meal can be more than just good food.  It can be a gateway to the heart.

We interviewed 10 outstanding culinary artists to find out what and who inspired them in their youth to be the great chefs they’ve become.

1. Andrew Spurgin

Twitter: @AndrewSpurgin

With 30 years of culinary experience in designing menus for parties, and producing bespoke events, Andrew consults world class restaurants, hotels, and events. Andrew has cooked for three U.S. presidents, Martha Stewart, and at the James Beard House in New York City.


What’s your favorite dish? 

I love whole fish, or practically anything, baked in salt or a salt dough crust. I will even do whole chicken with straw in salt dough. This method of cooking is beyond flavorful, as it captures ALL the essence of the product. Salt Crusted Abalone pictured below.


What was your favorite dish as a child?

My grandma’s Kippers and my mum’s Shepherd’s Pie

Has that changed?

No, I eat Sardines for breakfast all the time, my wife has banned me from cooking Kippers in the house (so I eat them when she’s traveling for business). Every time I eat mum’s Shepherd’s Pie it’s like going back in time.

Who inspired you to be a chef?

A host of people from my aunts and grandma to chef’s that I respected from way back in the day – Jacques Pépin, Julia Child, James Beard, Jeremiah Tower, Graham Kerr (such a character), Jack Monaco, and locally here in San Diego George Munger”.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?

A Marine Biologist

2. Terry French

Twitter: @Chef_French

Chef Terry French, the “Rebel Chef,” can cook anything, anytime, anywhere, and showed the world in 2012 as winner of Food Network’s World Extreme Chef.


What’s your favorite dish?

Wood fired Curried goat and roasted tomatoes


What was your favorite dish as a child? Has that changed?

Fried fish and fried potatoes with green beans; fresh caught fish from the lake and from my families garden cooked up lakeside with my family. Yes, my taste have changed over the years from all of my travels. 

Who inspired you to be a chef?

My mother, father, aunts, uncles and especially Julia Child. The list goes on from Paul Bocuse to Charlie Trotter to Thomas Keller. But out of all of them it’s the people I’ve met and my travels around the globe throughout my life that have taught me not just how to cook but about life and experiences that make each dish wonderful. When shared together, travel is key to learning cuisine first hand.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?

Sea captain or marine biologist. It’s my second half life traveling, fishing, and making memories, along with tournament fishing and hunting.

3. David LeFevre

Twitter: @ChefDLeFevre

David is the chef-owner of Fishing with Dynamite. He’s also the owner and Chef at M.B. Post, which was nominated for the James Beard Foundation Award in 2012.  David also received nominations for Best Chef in 2012 and 2013. More recently he opened his third restaurant, The Arthur J.


What’s your favorite dish?

That’s a tough call. How about a favorite dish at each restaurant? Our Bacon Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits at M.B. Post, our Hamachi Sashimi at Fishing with Dynamite, and the Bone-in Tomahawk at The Arthur J.



What was your favorite dish as a child? Has that changed?

My mother used to make a chowder that I loved!! It was the first dish I ever learned how to make with her and every time I eat chowder I think of her. 

Who inspired you to be a chef?

My mother did.  She knew I loved to cook and she always encouraged me to pursue being a chef even when I was at University, and I didn’t yet understand that you could actually make a living at it. 

What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?

I enjoy being involved in design. I have an eye for details and aesthetics and love figuring out how different designs go together and work. That said, my calling is with food.

4. Jenn Louis

Twitter: @jennlouisPDX

Jenn Louis is the founder and owner of Culinary Artistry and Lincoln and Sunshine Tavern. Atop her other ventures, Louis teaches cooking classes at homeless youth shelters  and helps provide working kitchen gardens for low income families. She was 2010 and 2011’s James Beard Foundation semifinalist for “Best Chef Northwest.”


What’s your favorite dish?

I like to eat everything – I’m pretty open – I love flavorful foods and I love veggies and meats. I just went to Israel and loved how vegies are a focal point in middle east cuisine. Good variety of flavors and spices. I try to think of ingredient that I am working with and how I want to build the dish around it. Herbs and spices that complement the natural ingredients. Texture and flavor are important.


What was your favorite dish as a child? Has that changed?

I grew up eating everything – so I ate a large variety of foods. I loved sweets as a child. And I still do!

Who inspired you to be a chef?

I was really inspired by travel and ethnic cuisine and working with other colleagues. Cooking is such an expansive field and there is always something new every time you turn around. Conversations with all things culinary from those growing the ingredient to those incorporating the ingredients and always experiencing different ways to cook ingredients from all sorts of cultures around the world. 

What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?

Cooking somewhere else…no just kidding. I had a triple major in women’s studies, environmental studies, and Religious studies. So that opens a lot of avenues for me but I fell in love with cooking. 

5. Frank Bilotti

Twitter: @kissthecheff

Frank Bilotti was the Executive Chef at Bin 5 in Staten Island. His main focus is Italian cuisine.,  He was “Recommended by Michelin” In 2011, 2012 and 2013. He was also a contestant on Season 13 of Fox Network’s Hell’s Kitchen.


What’s your favorite dish?

Tough question, (only ‘cause I’m in the mood for it) but I make a damn good mixed Seafood Fra Diavolo with Squid Ink linguini



What was your favorite dish a child? Has that changed?

As a kid I always looked forward to my Mother’s Sunday Sauce or her Beef Stew in the winter. (I used to make little sandwiches with the beef and mirepoix on warm biscuits, pretending I made my own creation.) 

Who inspired you to be a chef?

Constantly being surrounded by great meals prepared by both my mother and my father, I can safely say they are responsible for my career choice. 

What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?

If I wasn’t a chef I would be doing something with music, art, fashion or building. I love to create, that’s what I do.

6. Guy Fieri

Twitter: @GuyFieri

Guy Fiery is the owner and head chef of Italian eatery Johnny Garlic’s and Southern BBQ and California-style sushi fusion restaurant Tex Wasabi’s. Winner of Next Food Network Star and host of multiple TV Shows including:  Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

Ultimate Recipe Showdown

What’s your favorite dish?

That’s impossible to answer.  Its kind of like asking who’s my favorite kid! But I could eat spaghetti with a great bolognese any day.   

What was your favorite dish a child? Has that changed?

Anything that wasn’t vegetarian.  My parents were really into macrobiotic cooking and that kind of stuff.  I just wanted some killer chicken parm! 

Who inspired you to be a chef?

I’ve always been really into food.  But there’s a story I always tell about when I was a kid and I was complaining to my parents about whatever dinner we were having and they said ‘Well, Guy, if you don’t like it, make dinner yourself.’  So, I rode down to the butcher in my little town and bought a big steak.  I cooked it up and presented it to my dad, Jim, and he kind of gave me this look.  I was terrified that I’d screwed it up.  And he said ‘You know, Guy, this might be the best steak I’ve ever had.’  And that was it.  I knew what I was going to do.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?

Bail Bondsman? Nascar driver? Seriously, I’d still be in this business somehow.  I got a degree from UNLV in Hospitality so the business of restaurants and such has always been an interest to me.  Even if I couldn’t cook, I’d still be in the game.

7. Russell Jackson

Twitter: @ChefRJackson

Russell was Head Chef at James Beard-nominated Black Cat. Now owner of French brasseries inspired Lafitte, Russell often dabbles in the SubCulture Dining (SCD) scene. He was also a contestant on Iron Chef America and The Next Food Network Star.


What’s your favorite dish?

Mine or Someone Else’s… ha. If i have to think of one of the best bites I’ve ever had, it has to be the “mini salad bite” that my Best Chef Friend (BCF) Dominique Crenn was at the time testing for her menu at Atelier Crenn, it was so small and beautiful but the flavors were HUGE, bright and balanced. It was like eating a beautifully composed spring salad in the south of France in spring with the wispiest of tangy sweet banyuls vinaigrette, but yet there was no dressing. It was mind bending, because it was “bigger on the inside”, so to say. 

What was your favorite dish as a child? Has that changed?

Honestly my favorite dish as a child was a Bob’s Big Boy hamburger. It ’s still today a reminder of how simple a dish can be and how classic and nostalgic it can make you feel.

Who inspired you to be a chef?

In my early career, I have to admit, it was Julia and Wolfgang. I respect them and they attracted me to service. The masters I pay homage and often find that my overall developed style emulates is Jean George Vongerichten and of course Marco Pierre White.  

What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?

I studied Geology and thought I might go into Marine Biology for a period of time in my life, but I think I was always fooling myself that that was a possibility. It has always been a forgone conclusion that I was going to be a cook and hospitality anarchist.

8. Thiago Silva

Twitter: @Chef_Thiago

Thiago Silva started baking at age 13. As executive pastry chef at The General, he has honed in on the craft of asian cuisine. He has also been honored at ZAGAT’s “30 Under 30” Awards for New York City’s Food World Up-And-Comers.



What’s your favorite dish?

Sweet or savory?? Well my all time favorite dessert is a classic Tiramisu, possibly the one I make ha! For savory I’d have to say a nice charcoal grilled steak.

What was your favorite dish as a child? Has that changed?

Growing up my favorite was always steaks and bbqing in Brazil. The only thing that has changed is that I know so many different cut of meats. In Brazil you grow up with PICANHA which I still love, but now I eat them all.

Who inspired you to be a chef?

Mainly my Mom and Dad. They always loved being in the kitchen. I was always drawn to it because of them. My high school teacher Mr.Matsis and CCAP founder Richard Grausman have inspired and guided me a lot as well through my career.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?

Believe it or not, I’d probably be trying to become a musician. 

9. Barret Beyer

Twitter: @BarretHK11

Barret was a fan favorite on FOX’s hit tv cooking reality show Hell’s Kitchen Season. He was also Celebrity Chef Judge at the Long Island Hospitality Ball competition.


What’s your favorite dish?

My favorite dish that I have come up with is my signature dish. Seared Scallop Wasabi Cauliflower Purée Roasted Corn Salsa & Peppadew Gastrique. 

What was your favorite dish as a child? Has that changed?

Lol my mother always used to take leftover spaghetti from the night before and for breakfast make me spaghetti with Eggs and cheese. Yes, I still make it until this day (but not as good as my mom used to make it for me).

Who inspired you to be a chef?

It was my Mother’s idea for me to get into the field. I wanted to make a change in my life because my daughter was born in 2008 and I always loved cooking so I went full force in learning as much as possible and perfecting my craft so I could work for myself and be my own boss.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?

If I had not become a chef I would be dead or in jail and that’s a fact

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