in partnership
Chef David Wynne.jpg

A Local Chef's Appetite for Teaching the Next Generation

In Chef David Wynne's kitchen, things are run with military-like precision. He oversees each and every detail at Portfolio Restaurant in Seattle - from food prep to correct cooking techniques, nothing escapes his watchful eye. Wynne even checks the uniforms of everyone in the kitchen to make sure they are spotless.

Menu planning begins days earlier - with a sketchbook.

"How I process work is, I draw it visually first," said Chef. "And then after drawing it visually I break it down to the components and how it's going to be executed in the room, who it's gonna go to who gonna start it, who's gonna complete it and how it terminates at me."

Next, his crew carefully preps the ingredients. And let's just say, they're eager to please him. Cooking for this chef can be intimidating.

Luis Vilardi sums it up in one word,

"Terrifying," he said. "But overall {Chef Wynne} is a great guy. He knows a lot - I learn from him. Deep down he's a teddy bear - but don't tell him I told you that."

These "chefs-to-be" are actually students at The Art Institute of Seattle. Chef Wynne is not just their boss. He's also their teacher.

Three nights a week, they cook and serve a multi-course meal at Portfolio Restaurant. It's adjacent to their kitchen-slash-classroom. This is where the students get to put their culinary skills to the test.

As the clock ticks closer to opening time, things start heating up in the kitchen. It becomes a flurry of activity.

"So we understand each other?" Wynne asks his students. "Yes chef," they answer in chorus. "Let's get on the line and let's go," he continues. "We've got eight or nine people in the dining room now. Let's move it!"

Chef Wynne takes his job of training the chefs of tomorrow very seriously.

"Why am I tough on these guys sometimes? For fun," he says jokingly. "That's part of it, the other part is it keeps them honest, keeps them motivated in a positive way even though it's sardonic. Sometimes they need to push quite frankly."

This teacher gives the students the skills they need to excel out in the real world - with equal parts toughness and TLC.

"Do you want to go to your jobs every day and feel useless or timid or afraid?" he asks them. "No - you want to operate a position of knowledge and experience. So that's the reason why I am the way I am. Cause I want you guys to be successful."

He sees a delicious meal as nourishment for the body and mind. The chef wants to give each of Portfolio's patrons a memorable meal.

"What's really cool is, that person that couple or that family is going to remember that meal like we remember a song in the point of our life that the song reminds us of food does the same thing."

All the hard work seems worth it as guests savor their food. It's clear Chef Wynne relishes sharing his passion for cooking.

"You need a little more demi on there please," Chef Wynne says as a dinner goes out to the restaurant. "Look at that. That's worth working everyday... makes me keep coming back. I love my job."