The process of developing menus is a collaboration between Heck and his business partner. They brainstorm dishes which Heck cooks and they critique, fine tune and ultimately put out as a finished dish when they’re both satisfied with it. Heck also believes in cooking food that will satisfy his customers rather than just his own culinary interests.
Sourcing ingredients is a matter of striking a balance for Heck. He strives to get a good mixture of smaller and larger suppliers. Heck tries to be sustainable and use organically grown products as much as possible but he doesn’t tie himself to them exclusively. The diversity of relationships with suppliers means that he can source what he needs at any given time.
Some people perceive the lifestyle of a chef as being akin to the lifestyle of a rock star, but Heck is a working chef who spends every day on the line with his cooks. He hopes that the cooks will look at him as, “someone who is inspirational and helps them to grow in their careers.” He adds that he wants to create a positive kitchen environment.
Heck is looking for cooks that have a sense of commitment and loyalty to their jobs. He’s also interested in people who have a good attitude and a passion for what they’re doing. He uses his own career as an example and explains, “I started out as a dishwasher and I didn’t know anything about cooking, I didn’t even know how to hold a knife. As long as you have passion and commitment, you can go a long way in the kitchen.”
The challenging nature of Heck’s job as a chef provides him with motivation and inspiration. He explains, “Every day there’s a challenge. When you’re slow, there’s a challenge. When you’re busy, there’s a challenge. There are so many different aspects of restaurants that keep me coming back for more. It can be the people, the product or the customers. All of those things that keep inspiring me!”
The chef is also inspired by the life that he’s created for himself. He lives a block from both of his restaurants and his family often comes to visit him at work. Heck has found a balance that keeps him happy as a chef and as a person.
This article is based on an interview conducted with Chef Erik Heck on August 26, 2015.