A Second Chance 3,000 Miles South of Home
Los Angeles student Logan Stanley enrolled at the Institute of Culinary Education to reignite his career after closing a restaurant in Alaska.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve been influenced by food. My parents owned a diner where I spent my early childhood, and my late, paternal grandmother also ran a little place before I even existed. I have been cooking for more than half my life, and in my 15 years of experience in the culinary world I’ve gone from career classes in high school to working in several places of various styles and concepts to co-owning a little eatery of my own. But in my home state of Alaska, the economy really hit us hard. Sadly, I was forced to close our little hole in the wall, which was devastating.
After we closed I took a little time off from cooking to recover, but as it’s not my style to hang my jacket and walk away, I never gave up on being a chef. I decided I needed to reboot or have a fresh start. For me, that meant enrolling in culinary school and leaving Alaska behind.
I began by looking at several schools outside of my hometown of Anchorage, given that the culinary scene isn’t quite as big as in many places in the rest of America. If I stayed, I would not have had as many opportunities to express myself as a chef or work under an esteemed chef (news flash: In Alaska, we have little to no high-caliber chefs, like a Thomas Keller or Wolfgang Puck). In addition, in my mid-30s, I didn’t have the luxury or the time to spend two or three years being retaught in a kitchen classroom. I chose ICE not only for its national reputation and prestige, but the shorter program time could help me bounce back quicker.
My passion, or what I like to call my hunger or my drive, for the culinary world is also based on a simple yet soulful reason: redemption. When I closed my place, a part of me died. It was like losing something I cherished that I gave all my heart and soul to. No matter what I did, it still wasn’t enough to save it, and I had no choice but to pull the plug and let it go. If I didn’t consider going back to school to try to revive my heart, skill and drive for the only thing I’ve ever been good at, today I’d probably be sitting in a cubicle at an insurance office, or driving an Uber or Lyft. Instead, whatever I had left in me, I took it and made my way to Los Angeles to go to ICE.
To me, LA has a unique and modern culinary scene that thrives on originality and creativity and sets trends. To learn new things as a self-taught chef in such a colorful city is something I think could really help me succeed. So far, I’ve learned so many things and I’ve improved immensely. I’ve learned certain skills and techniques that were previously obstacles, and I have picked up new things that I had never seen, heard or thought of doing in the kitchen.
The module I’m in now, International Cuisines, has been my favorite thus far. As a chef, it’s important to understand all there is to know about each country’s style of food as well as the techniques there are to make these dishes, such as knowing how to make fresh pasta. Of all the dishes I’ve made, my proudest moment was when I prepared a crispy striped bass with haricot verts, rice pilaf, Béarnaise and brown butter sauce for my fourth practical.
As I have the benefit of being in both the Culinary Arts program and the Restaurant & Culinary Management program, I’ve been able to run my ideas by my management classmates (they seemed to love my idea of opening an Alaskan-themed restaurant here in Southern California).
Spending my days learning and growing at ICE is my second chance at getting up that ladder and climbing even higher than I’ve gone before. Energized, I’m going to keep going until I get back to the top. I have dreams, goals, ambitions and visions. I could open another place of my own, become a consultant, be nominated for a James Beard Award or even become a chef-instructor. What I do know: I am beyond 100 percent motivated and driven; now it’s more like 1,000 percent. I’m ready to learn, cook and eat my way through every lesson, every day. I’m ready to get back what I lost — not just my identity or my business but my will to become a great chef.
I hope to inspire those who live far away to go for it, and that it’s never too late to go back to school or learn new tricks. ICE has definitely reignited my love for the culinary industry and now, thanks to ICE, I’m even more confident as a chef than I have ever been in my career and my life.
Find your way to learning and cooking everyday in LA.