Cédric Vongerichten, named as one of Zagat’s 2013 top 30 up and coming chefs under 30, is a New York-based chef.
Cédric, the son of renowned Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, was born in 1981 in Bangkok, Thailand, where his father was the Chef at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok. They moved to New York when Cédric was 2.
Vongerichten knew he wanted to become a chef at 9 years old. “Are you sure you don’t want to be a doctor or lawyer?” his father often asked. Undeterred, Cédric began to pursue a professional chef path.
By age 9, Cédric was already playing in his father’s kitchen at the Lafayette in New York and began his career at age 17 when he was hired as a chef at a restaurant in the Bahamas.
After working through the ranks at several Jean-Georges restaurants, Cédric was appointed to his current position as Chef de Cuisine at Perry St Restaurant.
Cedric: Hi, I’m Cedric Vongerichten, chef of restaurant Perry St, and I’ve been cooking for 16 years.
You know all the chef at the time in France were like, oh he’s the son of Jean Georges. It was always like an extra pressure on top. So when I was in France I was kind of using my mother’s name, my mother’s last name so you know the chef wouldn’t know I was the son of Jean Georges. So I could just go into the kitchen and do my thing, I didn’t want to have that extra pressure. As of now, and 5 years ago, I don’t even think about it. I do what I love to do and it actually gives maybe a little challenge, but I don’t think as much about it.
Jean Georges: I think Cedric arrived in the more, when cooking is more glamorous and more, you know now all the chefs are rock stars and TV shows.
Cedric: He wanted to steer me away from the kitchen from the restaurant business and now I understand why.
Jean Georges: It’s not a gift for anybody to pass this over you know.
Cedric: And now I see that! Now I see all the pressure. It’s really difficult to succeed in this business.
And but maybe you know at that time it was really my passion and now I’m sure he realized that this is what I wanted. I was you know 14 years old stubborn also, I was in France, he was in New York City, and he was like yeah sure sure over the phone and so I kept on going in school and proving that this is really what I wanted to do.
This is the environment that I grew up in. And at 14 years old in France is when you have to choose your path. Are you going to take a more like education path or professional, and I took the professional way. And this is the only thing I had in my mind at that moment.
Between the age of 14 and 17 I was working for the different chefs in France, externs. And then at 17 years old, when I graduated from culinary school, my father and I we discussed, and he’s like you know what, do you want to do, I can send you right away next week you can go to the Bahamas and help me out opening a restaurant.
Jean Georges: I tried to push him away, maybe by seeing 2-3 openings he’d be like okay this is it, I’m done with this!
Cedric: Discouragement, but he just kept on building my passion you know. Came back to New York city worked at the mercer kitchen and at the moment my father was like I think you should go back to school and have more of an education in management, because what I did in school in France was just purely cooking. And I’m glad my father thus advised because going to the CIA you know you learn a lot about HR, finance, management, accounting, stuff that you don’t necessarily want to learn about but you need to when you want to take care of a restaurant. And then after graduating the CIA I came here at Jean Georges, started again from the bottom, you know I started down in Nougatine, gourmande, line cook, came up stairs in the kitchen, prestige kitchen of jean georges, an open kitchen, work every station, became a sous chef here, and then again we talked and were like what should be my next step, and then at that moment we had an opening at the restaurant Perry st, and he, you know, offered me the job to be chef there and start to express myself.
Jean Georges: You know it’s kind of just a small restaurant, it’s just for making the
Cedric: I had to start a couple food step and start building my own team, dishes, etc
Jean Georges: There’s something that I forgot to mention. The reason that I told him to go back to school when he was in his early 20s was, I opened my restaurant very late. I was 24 when I opened Jean Georges in 91 and I went back to school for 2 months. I went to Hunter College, at the time they had a crash course “How to Open a Small Business in New York City,” because I left school at 16 I was like I had no idea because being a chef and being a restaurateur is two different jobs, so I went back to school every day for a couple of hours, every night 8-10. I was like sitting with all these young kids, I was so embarrassed. 34 years old you know, to go back to school was a little, you know I learned the essentials of how to open a small business, how to get the permits and etc etc. so that helped me open Jean Georges.
Cinematography: A Mert. Erdem, Danielle Calodney
Edited by: Danielle Calodney
Interviewed: by Laura Lehmann
Produced by: Pangée Productions