‘The World Needs Your Talents’: Life Advice from Chef Ashten Garrett '18

For Ashten Garrett '18, pushing himself into new experiences is an integral part of his personal growth as a chef. While studying at JWU North Miami, he spent several months in Italy, immersing himself in Italian cuisine. He later took part in the annual Apicius International School of Hospitality at Florence University of the Arts dinner at the James Beard House in New York City. He served as the Eastern Regional Vice President of the American Culinary Federation’s Young Chefs Club. After graduating from JWU, he joined Culinary Arts Manager in Training Program at the Marriott Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio; he is now a senior culinary supervisor at the hotel.

In 2020, he has continued to excel. In February, he returned to Italy to compete in the Federazione Italiana Cuochi Campionati Della Cucina Italiana, where his team earned a bronze medal. That same month, he was honored with Ment’or BKB Foundation/Sysco grant that allows young chefs to spend one to two months working and learning in a Michelin-ranked kitchen. (That experience will take place in 2021.)

In March, he competed on — and won! — the “America’s Next Chefs” episode of the Food Network show, “Guy’s Grocery Games.” In this interview, he shares some of his career advice, life lessons and favorite moments from his culinary career (so far):

Tell us about your JWU mentors.
It’s difficult to say who’s helped me the most, as I’ve learned a great deal from them all. I’ve developed profound mentoring relationships with Kevin Kopsick, Alan Bergman, Christopher Wagner, Alan Lazar, Jeremy Houghton, and Lawrence LaCastra. They all played a pivotal role in my student development. I recall spending a lot of time with these chefs outside of the classroom as well — whether it was taking time to help me practice my craft, or working and learning alongside them at events, their influence was tremendous. Professors Lisa Smith, Samer Hassan and John Masi were also very detailed, professional, and organized in class, which resulted in fun and engaging classroom experiences.Chef Ashten Garrett with his 2020 cookbook, “A Few of My Favorites.”

How has JWU helped prepare you for your career?
Being able to learn from top industry professionals and leaders while delving into the rich culture and diversity on the campus itself definitely helped me develop as young man and culinarian. Outside of the book and class work, JWU (specifically the culinary department) did a tremendous job preparing and molding me for the expectations and standards of the culinary industry. The exposure to the various networking events that JWU produced provided valuable hands-on experience that differed from the classroom experiences.

What have you learned about your own work ethic since graduation?
I really enjoy my profession. I aim to work hard — and work smart — each day while allowing my craft to speak for itself. I try to be consistent and genuine; take measurable and professional risks; and respect constructive criticism. I also strive to be patient and trust in prayer. Nothing good in my life has come from rushing in unadvised. The intangible trait of patience, and learning how to master it, has been one of the more pivotal steps to achieving my success. “Good things come to those who wait.”

It’s so amazing that you won “Guy’s Grocery Games.” What was that like?
One important takeaway was to learn to accept constructive criticism from revered celebrity chefs. The second takeaway would be the ability to freely express my creativity. As young chefs we aren’t always afforded the opportunity to express ourselves within our craft — either due to the establishment or environment, which hinders growth and deters creativity.

How are you making things work during the COVID crisis?
I am trying to remain busy, positive, safe, and proactive by taking the time to read and stay in touch with my family and friends. In addition, I am practicing for the American Culinary Federation’s Student Chef of the Year Competition; I have taken a few online certification culinary courses offered by the World Association Chefs Societies (WACS) while also developing a culinary educational vlog that will offer insights into the culinary industry for novice cooks.

What words of encouragement or actions do you want our Wildcat Community to take away?
When I was a freshman in high school, I discovered the quote, “In order to get somewhere you have never been, you have to be willing to do something you have never done.”

This made an indelible impression on me and caused me to reevaluate my life. To the JWU Wildcat Community, I encourage you all to follow your dreams.

The path may not reveal itself right away and it certainly won’t be easy to achieve. But trust me when I say that perseverance is absolutely necessary and with it you will achieve. The world needs your talents and character more than ever.

I advise you all to follow this simple advice: Trust and believe in yourself, acquire great mentorship, learn and listen from the greats to become greater, and finally, never go to the grocery store hungry! I leave you with my favorite quote from legendary actor Denzel Washington: “Without commitment, you’ll never start, but more importantly, without consistency, you’ll never finish.”

Follow Garrett’s culinary adventures on his website or on Instagram