ICE Alum Saul Silva Becomes Bull & Butterfly’s Newest Sous Chef
A journey from student to sous chef in less than three years.
Much like many other culinary aficionados, Saul Silva’s (Culinary, ‘19) love for food began even before stepping foot in a professional kitchen. He can likely attribute that to his early days of shadowing his father — who is a professional baker — while cooking at home. After a lot of hard work, determination and focus, Saul is now the sous chef at Bull & Butterfly in Playa Vista, California. This is the newest Los Angeles restaurant from Lemonade’s creators, Alan and Heidi Jackson.
Saul recounts, “my first job was actually at Porto’s Bakery where my dad has been working for 20-something years.” Here, Saul began as a server, but it wasn’t long before he became “intrigued by the pastry and cakes they were making” behind the scenes. Soon after starting, he was transferred into their department, following in the footsteps of his father at a mere 17 years old.
Saul admits that a series of fortunate coincidences led him to where he is today. After an unexpected life change, Saul and his partner moved to a town called Merced in Central Valley, California. Though Saul better envisioned himself in the kitchen, he took a job as a busser at an Italian restaurant called Bella Luna Bistro. While on the job, a cook at the restaurant cut their finger, leading the head chef to request that Saul step in to take over the station for the day. Saul has been working in the kitchen ever since.
Passionate about learning more and expanding his culinary knowledge, Saul enrolled in Culinary Arts at the Institute of Culinary Education's Los Angeles campus in the summer of 2018. He explains he decided to go to culinary school because he wanted to advance himself and his knowledge.
Eager to put his education to work, Saul committed to an externship at Chef Tim Hollingsworth’s Los Angeles restaurant, Otium. Chef Hollingsworth has an impressive background, as he started his career at The French Laundry for 13 years, including four years as the chef de cuisine. The acclaimed chef is the winner of the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef of the Year Award and won Netflix’s "The Final Table."
During the time Saul spent at Otium, he quickly moved up the ranks, mastering any station he was given the opportunity to tackle. Within his first year at the restaurant, Saul worked his way through the garde manger, wood oven, pasta, sauté and grill stations. An impressive feat, needless to say. His favorite station was pasta where he says he felt exhilarated by the “movement of twirling pasta with tweezers and making the sauces” that required finesse and a well-developed palate. Saul also admired that every recipe was “very technique-driven, methodical and thought out.”
Saul advanced as he was presented with opportunities: If someone moved on from a station, he was always enthusiastically there to accept the next challenge. He humbly admits that he always remained “motivated and looking forward to learning the next thing or station,” and believes that his peers recognized his hard work, giving him more and more responsibilities as time went on.
Though Saul's success at the restaurant showed no signs of stopping, he — along with everyone in the culinary industry — was forced to reassess his future as COVID-19 put an abrupt halt to all service earlier this year. Otium has yet to reopen since its closure in March, which left Saul, along with many of his colleagues, looking for other opportunities.
When reflecting on his time at Otium, Saul recalls that he and the restaurant’s former chef de cuisine, Robbie Nowlin, quickly became excellent working companions and had great chemistry while cooking together in the kitchen. After parting ways due to the pandemic, it wasn’t long after Robbie joined Lemonade’s Alan and Heidi Jackson’s latest project — Bull & Butterfly — that Saul got a very promising phone call.
Saul recalls that to his surprise he heard Robbie’s voice on the other end of the line enthusiastically say, “I have a proposition for you!” The former colleague explained that he would soon be the executive chef at Bull & Butterfly, a brand new, modern California-inspired steakhouse in Playa Vista and that he wanted Saul to be the sous chef at the new spot. Saul instantly responded with an exclamatory, “YES!”
Saul now oversees not only every single station but also “produce, product, hours, front of the house, invoices,” and the list goes on. He says it’s definitely “going to take some getting used to,” and acknowledges that this is a “huge transition going from a line cook to sous chef."
However, Saul is more than excited to take on the challenge and is comforted by previous Otium colleagues that have joined him in the front and back of house at the new restaurant. Saul proudly shares that Bull & Butterfly had several open positions that were offered to previous coworkers that were unemployed. One of his new hires includes another ICE alum, Evan Harrington (Culinary, ‘19), who began at Otium shortly after Saul. “Who better to hire than the people you already know well and that don’t have jobs at the moment?” Saul concluded.
As of now, Saul is continuing to look for more line cooks to lead the stations and is doing his best to find a balance between work and life. He is focused on continuing to move up in his culinary career and urges other aspiring chefs to “always expand their knowledge and explore more food, flavors and techniques.” He ardently believes that “there is always something new to learn, especially in the kitchen.” Some of his inspiration comes from chefs like Thomas Keller, Daniel Humm and David Chang. Saul believes that you should “find what you appreciate and what you like, and aspire to go there,” through hard work and determination.
In the future, Saul looks forward to starting an artisan cutting board company alongside his wife, and to continue to move up in the kitchen to become a better chef every day. As for his family, Saul says they are very proud of him and are always asking for him to make them ribs. They have declared it his unofficial specialty!
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