Sous Chef: ‘Cooking Was Always my First Love'

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Sous chef Ebony Maggae
Follow Oprah's advice and find something you love doing, says chef Ebony Magae. (Credit: Courtesy Ebony Magae)

Ebony Magae is thrilled with her work life now, but it took her more than one try to find the right career. 

This sous chef and instructor at Work Options for Women in Denver, Colorado, offers good advice for anyone who's still hunting for the job they were meant for.

Why did you become a sous chef? Did you always want to do this?

I absolutely love cooking. I enjoy making people happy through my food, especially when the food is delicious. It’s like a universal language.

Cooking was always my first love and my passion, but because my mother, grandmother, aunties and cousins — literally everyone in my family — are nurses, I got into nursing. I'm a caregiver naturally, but cooking was always in my heart. Every chance I got, I was cooking or hosting holidays, baby showers, bar mitzvahs or anything to do with cooking.

What does a typical day as a chef look like?

As an instructor, my day is making sure that I have everything I need so by the time my students arrive, we are ready to rock out the menu for the day.

Our curriculum is teaching employable skills in the culinary industry, punctuality and time management, knife skills and basic kitchen math. (A chef is one of the best hands-on jobs that use algebra.)

I live this job, and training never stops. Everyday is a learning experience. When you think you know everything in this industry, it’s time to find another job.

What do you like most about your job? And least?

I love my job! I love teaching and bringing the best out of my students. Some of them come in with low confidence, thinking they can’t do certain things. After one week in the kitchen with me, they are dicing and chopping! By the end of training, they have confidence and are ready for the industry.

I don't like seeing students leave, but I know I've trained them well. They will be successful in this industry. 

What’s the most common misconception about chefs?

That all chefs are rude and that we yell all the time!

What do you wish you knew about being a chef before you got into it?

I wish I would have known it was this fulfilling 20 years ago! I feel I would be much further along in my career.

I remember Oprah Winfrey said "Find something in life that you’re good at and love doing and you will succeed." I finally did! 

If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

As I mentioned, my background is in nursing. I was a nursing assistant, and then I went on to become a physical therapy assistant. If I wasn’t a chef, I would still be in nursing.

Where do you see yourself in five to 10 years?

In five years I see myself getting my catering company off the ground, marketing my own spices as well as aprons, hot mitts and jumpers, so ladies can look fabulous in the kitchen!

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