Chef de cuisine Julie Kline—Marc Vetri’s first female head chef—gives six bits of advice on how to make it in the food business.

By Julie Kline
Updated May 23, 2017
Steve Legato

F&W's #FOODWINEWOMEN series spotlights top women in food and drink in collaboration with Toklas Society. Follow the hashtag on Twitter (@foodandwine). Here, chef de cuisine Julie Kline—Marc Vetri’s first female head chef—gives six bits of advice on how to make it in the food business.

Who: Julie Kline

What: Chef de Cuisine

Where: Alla Spina, Philadelphia; @Chef_Pink_Lady

I remember my first day in the industry like it was yesterday—it was as a bus girl at a small family-run restaurant. It only took that first shift to realize that this was what I wanted to do with my life. I was only 15 years old. Now it's been nearly 15 years since then, and every day since I have seized every opportunity that has come my way to help make me the chef I am today. There have definitely been some burns and cuts along the way, and there still are almost daily, but it’s all a part of being a chef. My biggest motivation isn’t just making the people we serve happy, it’s also the love and support of my family and friends.

1. Start as young as you can. If food is something you like and want to pursue as a career, start now and don’t wait. The longer you wait, the more opportunities you will miss. It may not be glamorous at first, but with hard work and dedication you can achieve anything you set your heart on.

2. Education is key. It may not be a four-year degree in culinary arts, a business degree is incredibly helpful also. There are numerous schools worldwide, where you can get the basic knowledge to start a business. As for culinary schools, once again, there are numerous, wonderful ones out there that will equip you with the skills you need. I went to Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts. My education provided me with the tools to prepare me for a career in culinary arts.

3. Support. There is no way to do this job by yourself. You need the support of others in your business that you can strongly rely on—partners or co-workers who care about your business as much as you do is a must-have to run a successful business. The other form of support, which I rely on most, comes from family and friends. I wouldn’t be anywhere without the love, support and motivation they have all given me since day one.

4. Know what you’re getting into. This industry is not for everyone. It’s not a hobby or something to pass the time with, it’s your life. You have to be fully dedicated to what you’re doing, which is why the support of everyone around you is so important. I busted my butt to get to where I am today.

5. To be in the industry you need two things: passion and drive. The days can be hard and long, but what makes it fun and exciting is the heart and soul that goes into every little thing we do. The drive to be on top, try new things and be creative is all a part of what keeps us going. Sometimes we get beat down, but it’s always the passion and the drive to be better that helps keep us going.

6. Believe in yourself. You need to believe in yourself so others believe in you; that is a big part of becoming a chef. You can make amazing food, but if you don’t have the confidence to teach others how to do it, you will find yourself doing all the work. Being a chef is about delegating and teaching a team. Your team won’t learn from you if you don’t believe in yourself.