Chef Hamilton grew up in the restaurant business with his family in Oklahoma and began cooking at the tender age of six. He received his formal training from the Ritz-Escoffier Ecole du Gastronomie and Le Cordon Bleu culinary academy.
When I first started I wa about 6 in my families restaurants. So its much differnt than when I started. When I finally realized I wanted to be great was after I had been a chef for many years, even an exec chef for alot of them. I graduated collge and went to France to learn more about my craft. IN those two years my life and views of food changed so dramatically I could never have expected it.
Sometimes people have no realistic idea of what's involved in working in any profession or industry until they actually start working, or at lest until they go to school. At other times people have a very real idea about what they are already doing, yet have an epiphany that radically changes the core of their thinking. You grew up in restaurants. Did you ever cook in those restaurants? Had you ever thought of taking over that restaurant? Did you study and work in France before working in other kitchens or had you already had some kitchen experience by the time you studied in France? You've said that your views on food, and even your life changed dramatically as a result of going to France. Can you go into more detail on that?
I did work in my families restaurant, though not as a head or even sous chef. My mother finally sold her restaurants before I was old enogh to assume the lead. But quite frankly, I dont think I would have ever tried to take them over. It wasnt my style of food, as I later learned, and it is impossible to work with and for family. At least my family anyway.
I went to France much later in my career. I had worked in many mid level restaurants as was quite good. But nothing really super high end. When I was 16 I worked with Paul Prudhomme in New Orleans and my family used to travel to N.O alot and I would visit the kitchen of Commanders Palace when Paul was there and later Emeril. So I started likeing more of the fine dineing world. When I got married we decided to go to France. This was my early 20's by then.
What changed me in France was that I learned there was a deeper meaning to food. It was not a craft but a passion that needed to be fed and there was a whole world of food I had never dreamed of, even with all my travels and experience before. Sitting on the Champs on a Sunday, sipping wine with chef friends and eating fresh bread and people watching, really changed me. Working in 3 star kitchens and seeing the discipline and talent it took made me realize there was more to being a chef. When I was younger, I used to believ being a chef wa alomst a bad thing or what you did with no educational almost. Like it was frowned upon. All that changed during my time in France and I grew to deeply respect chefs, their craft and ability and want it could and would mean for me to be a chef of that high callibur.