Chefs Share Their Daily Rituals

From a daily shoe shine to preservice stretches, star chefs reveal their essential routines.


Edward Lee

610 Magnolia, MilkWood (Louisville, KY)

“I do a lap around the dining room before service and I always adjust one place setting, even if it’s perfect. It’s never more than one. It’s just something I have to do and then I’m ready to get started.”

Gavin Kaysen
Photo courtesy of Gavin Kaysen.

Gavin Kaysen

Café Boulud (New York City)

“Michel LeBorgne, the chef and founder of the New England Culinary Institute, taught me that shiny shoes are happy shoes, so I shine my shoes every day before work.”

Eric Ripert
Photo courtesy of Eric Ripert.

Eric Ripert

Le Bernardin (New York City)

“I always carry a small Buddha or Ganesh in my pocket, made from stone, crystal or bronze. For some reason I feel protected. However, the real purpose is to remind myself during the day of the good principles and values taught to us by Buddha. I sometimes also have Guanyin, Green Tara and very often an angel with me—my pockets are full all of the time!”

Michael Cimarusti

Photo © iStockphoto

Michael Cimarusti

Providence (Los Angeles)

“I only turn a pot clockwise on the stove. I always correct myself if I start to turn the other way.”

Sang Yoon
Photo courtesy of Sang Yoon.

Sang Yoon

Father’s Office, Lukshon (Los Angeles)

“I’ve played hockey since I was young and hockey players are some of the most superstitious people out there. When I get dressed, I always put on my clothes left to right, like I did with my uniform and equipment when I was playing. I have to go left leg first, left sleeve, sock, even my Timberland work shoes that I wear in the restaurant. Otherwise I’m messed up. It is absolutely never the other way, always left first. I also have a stretching routine I do before I cook, much like the pregame stretches I used to do.”,

Vikram Garg

Photo © Sisto Domingo

Vikram Garg

Farm Fresh at Halekulani (Waikiki, HI)

“I always present food in odd numbers. I’d never serve two scallops—only one or three. Everything is one, three, five or seven. I worked with a Japanese chef and in Japan they have a superstition about doing even numbers, and it stuck in my mind.”

Giuseppe Tentori

Photo © Anthony Tahlier

Giuseppe Tentori

Boka (Chicago)

“I keep a 1978 half-dollar in my pocket for luck. I got it as change once and loved that it was almost as old as I am. I lost it once in my coat. I had a hole in my pocket, and it traveled into the lining. The dry cleaner found it and returned it to me, so now it really feels lucky.”

Viet Pham
Photo courtesy of Viet Pham.

Viet Pham

Forage (Salt Lake City)

“I have such an incredible respect for the food that we work with, especially fish. There was a time in my life that I wanted to become a professional bass fisherman and tour the country competing in fishing tournaments. When I fish I only catch and release, and each and every fish I catch I give it a kiss on the head before releasing it back into the water. When I break down fish in my restaurant I always whisper under my breath ‘thank you’ before cleaning and cooking it, sort of like a silent prayer.”

Jamie Bissonnette
Photo courtesy of Jamie Bissonnette.

Jamie Bissonnette

Coppa (Boston), Toro (Boston and New York City)

“I polish the stainless steel on my station just before service every day. I can’t start otherwise. And I always wash my clogs after service, no matter how late it is. Routines are big for chefs.”,,

Mike Lata

Photo © Bettmann / CORBIS

Mike Lata

FIG, The Ordinary (Charleston, SC)

“Prep time can be intense and service definitely is. Escoffier talked about the importance of going for a walk in between the two to decompress a little and then refocus. So I like to go for a walk before service starts. And a double espresso helps, too.”

Egg Creams with Spiced Chocolate Syrup
© Marcus Nilsson

Photo © Marcus Nilsson

Mary Sue Milliken

Border Grill (Los Angeles)

“Once I make sure we’re all prepped, I get everyone focused and pumped for the shift. We don’t drink at work. But if we feel that service has gone exceptionally well, I like to celebrate by whipping up a batch of espresso-Kahlua milk shakes for everyone.”

Susan Feniger Indulges in French Fries

Photo © Fredrika Stjärne

Susan Feniger

Border Grill, Street (Los Angeles)

“Before lunch service I walk down the line, with a pocketful of spoons and begin to taste each item on each station. The running joke is, ‘Here comes Susan, add salt and add acid!’ But the thing I think I really secretly love the most is, right before lunch service, when the homemade fries come out of the fryer and get tossed with freshly ground cumin and salt. I get a little plateful of those, add some habanero salsa and we are ready for service.”,

Kelly Liken
Photo courtesy of Restaurant Kelly Liken.

Kelly Liken

Restaurant Kelly Liken (Vail, Colorado)

“Right before service there is no talking, just getting everything set and ready, for about 15 minutes. It helps clear my head and ‘get in the game’ for service. We joke that it feels like that concentrated quiet in a locker room before a big game or match. This is something that I have always done and have taught to many of my staff.”

Marisa May Ends the Day with Baked Eggs

Photo © Quentin Bacon

Marisa May

SD26 (New York City)

“Breakfast is my relaxing time and my time to prepare for the day. At night, after working for 12 hours, I’m too tired to do anything. When I was little, we used to make this egg dish with leftover sauce from the night before. Sometimes I whip part skim milk ricotta until it’s fluffy, then layer it with pears poached in maple syrup and lemon juice. It’s the dessert part of my breakfast. I wake up very hungry!”

Jean-Georges Vongerichten
Photo courtesy of Organic Avenue.

Jean-Georges Vongerichten

Jean-Georges (New York City)

“I have juice from Organic Avenue every morning to get me going. Later I head to the gym to jump rope, which makes me feel like a kid again.”

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