Chef Christopher Schlattman is the chef and co-owner of The Food Doctors, a healthy meal prep and delivery company based in Phoenix. Hailing from Illinois, Christopher has worn many hats in and out of the kitchen, including time at the renowned Alinea in Chicago. Learn more about Christopher Schlattman…
First job: The Lawn Boys. At the young age of 13 I saved my allowance to buy a lawn mower. I offered my services with flyers my parents had made, giving the dads in the neighborhood their Sundays back free of landscaping duties and honey-do lists. By the end of my first summer, I had over 50 lawns to take care of, no longer needing an allowance from my parents. I hired a few friends and each summer we were made men with cash to burn.
Person who has impacted your life the most and why: Chef James Porter of Terra Farm and Manor in Prescott has been the most impactful chef in my career because of his dedication to our craft and push for a great business model. A great chef is creative under pressure, an amazing read on people getting the most out of their team and is a savvy business instrument turning a perishable product into a profit in a very tight time frame. James is truly a master at seeing 20 steps ahead. I have always felt he had something up his sleeve somehow molding me for my own growth and his own projects without me even knowing.
Biggest accomplishment in your eyes and why: I worked at Alinea in Chicago which is a three Michelin restaurant and was by far the most challenging moment of my culinary career. The team is made up of the best chefs in the world and true masters of our craft. I had not even scratched the surface of my industry and found myself competing with 10 other cooks for one spot. This was the best of the best, and it tested every ounce of my skills I had yet refined or even knew I had. As the chef called us in to the dining room after a week-long working interview one by one, I saw defeat in the eyes of each cook that turned the corner and walked by us waiting standing at military-style attention. I was the last one to be called. As I walked into the most beautiful room I had ever seen, the chef simply said in a quick and unemotional tone, “You want the job?” to my quick reply, “Yes, chef.” “OK, Monday 6 a.m.” He shook my hand and left the room. I had no idea what I was in for, what the job even paid or the schedule other than I knew my life was about to change forever.
The biggest obstacle you have overcome: By far my biggest obstacle to overcome was learning how to wear the many hats a chef has when running a business; from people management to curating the ingredients, and marketing our culture. I took a few years out of my comfort zone and did produce sales for Willie Itule Produce. I wanted to learn more about the process of finding amazing ingredients and how a chef and farmer can become more connected. Willie Itule is a master of knowing the market and seasons that farmers and large company growers live by. I stumbled at first learning the right conversations to build trust and that each kitchen has its unique problems that I had to navigate in order to make the sale and keep the chefs happy. I had always been on the other end of the phone with crazy requests pushing my vendors to be the best. Getting a taste of my own medicine I quickly had a newfound respect for the process of finding that one perfect ingredient.
Who inspires you and why: My wife inspires me the most as a cardiac nurse. She works harder than anyone I know and is cool as a cucumber under pressure. When you are at your weakest and need the most help, medical professionals like my wife are who we turn to when it really matters. She saves lives every day as if she puts on a cape and Wonder Women boots before she leaves the house. Truly an everyday hero in my book, especially now in our current times of uncertainty.
Favorite quote: “Don’t crowd the mushrooms, or they won’t brown.” Julia Child
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: Always be looking for someone who is better than you at something and become the student. There are endless ways to cook something and no one has tried them all, but some have discovered tricks and ways to make something truly special that no one else has thought of. Collect as much information as you can and always take great notes; it is a lot of information to remember all those recipes.
What makes someone fabulous: Those who dare to break the mold make someone fabulous. The willingness to put your work out there for others to judge and criticize. It is easy to give your opinion whether you like or dislike something, but it takes a special kind of person to take a chance and let your creativity pave new roads. Chefs call this dinner time, and it happens every night.