NCC Culinary Alumnus Daniel Goulet '01 Returns as Chef in Residence
by Myra Saturen,
On one of their first dates, Chef Daniel Goulet invited his wife-to-be to a wine dinner at Ocean, the restaurant in Easton where he worked. "Oh, that bruschetta was so good!" she said, impressed. But the dish wasn't bruschetta. It was raw tuna. Goulet's girlfriend couldn't believe she enjoyed it so much.
As the Robert C. Wood Chef-in-Residence at Northampton Community College (NCC) in April, Goulet used food to tell his story, preparing togarishi tuna sushi to narrate a key event in his life, his courtship of his wife. Food flavored his life story, from his days as a fifteen-year-old busboy at the Lords Valley Country Club in the Poconos to his present position as the club's executive chef, twenty years later.
In between, he interned and cooked at many restaurants, including Daniel Boulud, Chantarelle, Blue Hill, the Park Avenue Café, and Il Campanello. He has also been the executive chef at River Grille and Ocean, at age 21, the youngest person to reach this rank. Additionally, he has taught at NCC and the Florida Culinary Institute, where he was named Educator of the Year for all of South Florida.
In introducing Goulet at the cooking demonstration at NCC, Chef Scott Kalamar, associate professor of culinary arts, said "I am proud that Daniel is from our culinary program. He gives back within and outside the profession. He is a true gentleman, with passion and professionalism, attitude and gratitude."
Goulet did not recognize his talents until an executive chef named Giovanni, a native of Naples, Italy, hired him to work in his small Italian restaurant. "Up until then," Goulet said, "my life wasn't going in a good direction. Giovanni was a tremendous influence. He taught me to understand food and flavors." Impassioned with a desire to learn all he could, Goulet knew he wanted to be a chef.
At NCC, he learned his flavor profile and how to be creative. He retains strong personal ties to the chefs who taught and inspired him. "It was humbling working with these fine chefs," he said.
At the cooking demonstration, Goulet displayed his natural teaching gifts, interacting in a friendly, frank manner with the audience. While kneading and stretching his handmade mozzarella cheese, slicing pink, cured duck for duck Reuben and searing diver scallops in thyme sprigs and butter, Goulet shared the wisdom he has gathered throughout his career:
* The food business is intense, with long hours encompassing weekends, evenings and holidays. Nevertheless, stay connected with yourself and the people who are important to you.
* Try working on a family holiday like Thanksgiving to see whether a culinary career is really for you.
* Work for free, at first, to determine whether you and a restaurant are a good match. Goulet recalled that when he started at the Park Avenue Café, a higher-up dropped fifty pounds of carrots on his work station and told him to peel them. "Why was I asked to do this?" Goulet asked the audience. "They wanted to see whether I could work fast and do it without complaining."
* Try something new every day. Goulet plans to prepare duck tongue at Lords Valley Country Club, even though he has never done this before.
* Be involved in every aspect of the restaurant. At the country club, Goulet participates in each task, including taking out the garbage. In this way, he builds rapport with the staff and shows a willingness to do all that they do.
* Have a hospitality mentality, a "yes" approach. If patrons arrive near closing time or even after closing time, Goulet welcomes them. "I want to be the person who is there to cook for them," he says.
* Remember the people who helped you get where you are.
* Don't make the mistake of buying a restaurant if you already have large debts. Do so only when you know you can manage it financially.
* Be well-rounded. Although Goulet was not formally trained as a pastry chef, he became a certified pastry chef. To illustrate this side of his life, Goulet created the evening's pièce de résistance, an egg custard with strawberry mint salad, spooned into a smooth brown eggshell.
Goulet advises students to stay fresh and local; he raises his own chickens. Salt is his favorite ingredient and he emphasizes careful seasoning. He values artful plating, with a variety of food textures.
"Above all," Goulet told his audience of culinary students and members of the community, "your job as a chef is to educate people and their palates and to have them experience something different." Although he offers old favorites at the country club, he changes other menu items every day.
The Robert C. Wood Chef-in-Residence program was established by the Wood Company (now Sodexo, Inc.) in 2000 to give culinary students the opportunity to work side-by-side with chefs from some of the region's top restaurants. While on campus, the chefs also share some of their favorite recipes with the public during a cooking demonstration and special dinners. Proceeds from the demonstration will benefit the Hotel, Restaurant and Culinary Arts Endowment Fund at NCC.