Holly Ebel: From Eyota to the Big Apple

March 20, 2019

How many 20-year-olds know exactly what career path they want to follow and take steps to pursue it? Not too many that I know.

There is, however, one young man from our area who is actively working toward becoming a world class chef. Meet Taylor Hanson of Eyota.

He is currently a student at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., one of the country’s most prestigious training grounds for a culinary career. When this semester ends in a few weeks, he will then spend 14 weeks interning at one of New York City’s finest restaurants, Le Bernardin, before returning to school.

How did he get to this point at such a relatively young age?

“Growing up, I was always around great home cooking,” he said. “Eating at home was a priority and both my parents are excellent cooks. In fact, my mother is an incredible baker and last summer won two ribbons at the Minnesota State Fair for her French macarons. I’ve always loved being in the kitchen, both helping and doing.”

While Hanson and his twin were home-schooled, during what would have been his junior and senior high school years he enrolled at RCTC and received an associate’s degree. During that time, he solidified his desire to attend culinary school.

Hanson sought out Julie Warner, a family friend, who is herself a culinary school graduate and well-respected in that field. She advised him to spend some time working in the field before going to a school “just to make sure this is what I wanted to do,” he said.

So he did, starting with time at Burt’s Meats in Eyota, a year working at the deli at the Rochester Athletic Club and six months in the kitchen at Chester’s.

“That was such a terrific experience,” he said. “Chef Derek Jensen was so helpful, supportive and encouraging, as was everyone else there. I learned so much. It also was clear to me that I have a good personality for the kitchen.”

With the decision made to go forward, Warner suggested schools she thought would best suit Hanson, one of which was the Culinary Institute. He applied, was accepted and started classes last August.

Some of the stars of the kitchen have attended there include Anthony Bourdain, Emeril Lagasse and Giada de Laurentiis. The school is known for its intensive and demanding curriculum.

“We started with culinary fundamentals like braising, stewing, stocks, soups and basic French techniques,” Hanson said.

Each subject goes for three weeks, plus six hours daily in the kitchen. Some of the categories are butchery, seafood (his favorite), banquet and ala carte. Then there are assigned readings, studying recipes and watching videos.

Hanson told me about an upcoming exam, in which each class member draws one of five menus and will have just 2-1/2 hours to prepare it. This includes an entree, a starch, two vegetables and a soup. They will each then be judged.

“It gets to be pretty intense and stressful,” he said. Of his class of 20, five had already dropped. He, however, is thriving.

I asked what they did out of class. “Sometimes a few of us will get together and cook (busman’s holiday), or we’ll go into New York City,” he said. “I’ve made some good friends.”

His 14-week internship begins in a few weeks, and his being offered the time at Le Bernardin is especially exciting for him. This is a high-end fine-dining French seafood restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. His responsibilities will vary but increase as he gains experience. It’s also the direction he hopes to take.

Of course I had to ask him his favorite thing to eat and prepare.

“My absolute favorite is shallow poached flounder with a sauce made from the poaching liquid,’ he said. “I’m passionate about seafood and that’s where I hope my training takes me.”

Stay tuned — this is one young man we’ll want to watch.