From finance to French cuisine

Chef Richard Leong made a bold move leaving the security of a banking job for a career in food.

by: Retuters: Richard Leong | 06 Nov 2008

Bruce Sherman, the head chef and partner at the North Pond restaurant in Chicago, nearly missed out on a culinary career.

The son of a banker, he was poised for a career in finance. But while studying at the London School of Economics, he felt the early pangs for something different and redirected his energy to a career in restaurant management.

Frustrated by the lack of creativity as a manager, he turned his focus on cooking, which steered him to India and France where he perfected his skills.

After several years abroad Sherman returned to his native Chicago where he became the head chef at North Pond and developed his creative modern French cuisine using local organic products.

Q: What and who inspires you to cook?
A: "I believe in genetic disposition. I feel there's something genetically that drives me to cook. I also have to give a lot of credit to my mom who's a pretty respectable home cook who made a diverse number of dishes and cuisines when I grew up."

Q: How did you merge your economics background with food?
A: "I started a catering business in Washington. It allowed me to be creative with menu planning and utilisation of economic principles to make the business work. At the same time, it was very rewarding because it was my business to be creative and directive in how I want to run it. I did that for six years."

Q: How did your time in India shape how you think about food?
A: "Going to the market each day and deciding on what to cook for dinner was directly dependent on what's available at the vegetable stands at the end of the block. And I could never be sure until I get to the tent and see what's there. What that did was that it helped me to develop a keener sense of what specific products were available at certain times of year."

Q: Are there Indian influences in your cuisine?
A: "I could have become a fusion chef like an Indian-French or Indian-American. That's not what I took away from India. I could make a pretty impressive south Indian curry or south Indian buffet. But that's typically not what I choose to do. There are Indian flourishes I put on my menu occasionally."

Q: What do you cook for yourself?
A: "I'll grill a piece of meat whether it's steak or fish and maybe have it with pasta made with olive oil and Parmesan and balsamic vinegar and toss in some clean, green vegetables, plus a salad."

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