Family Influenced Chef John Fraser's Critically Acclaimed Cooking

"And at some point, I kind of fell out of love with the idea of being a doctor or being a lawyer and sitting in a classroom, and I really like working with my hands," he said. "And I got introduced to a chef who took cooking very seriously ... and I realized that food isn't just food. If you take it seriously enough, it can become art. It sort of raises the level."

Fraser was quick to point out, however, that he isn't an artist.

"I would consider myself more blue-collar than anything," he said. "I think the glamour of cooking happens at the table with the guests. I think that everything leading up to it, from the farm, to the kitchen, to the dishwashers, to the chef -- it's very blue-collar. I mean, it's a lot of hard work. And you get your hands dirty, and they get cut and burnt. And it's not, you know, it's not an artist's job, really."

That hard-work-does-you-good sensibility combined with the creativity necessitated by changing seasons and evolving techniques is a large reason why Fraser loves to cook. The moment he realized that he loved it so much came while he was working for one of Thomas Keller's restaurants, the French Laundry.

"I fought for a job at the French Laundry, and that's when, after being there for a year, I realized that I could do this for a living," he said. "It was after going through the hazing, so to speak, for a year of trial and error and trying to find my place in that kitchen. And once I sort of found my place in the kitchen, I knew that was it. That's when I knew.

"You're not born cooking," he said. "You don't come out of the womb with a skillet and a ladle and you're like, 'Let's go, let's cook some eggs.' You have to learn everything and if you apply hard work I feel like you can."

Cooking 2.0: Recipes Aren't Necessary

Growing up, Fraser wasn't afraid to experiment in the kitchen. Of course, not every meal was a success.

"I remember the worst thing I've ever eaten was made by my mom," he said. "It was this tuna casserole. It was horrendous. When my mom wasn't looking, my father was like, 'Eat some and drink some milk right afterwards' -- you know, to try and wash it down. But then my mom figured it out, and so it was a huge fight."

Fraser said his mom taught him that there's no such thing as a recipe. In other words, nothing is set in stone.

"Everything happens in that moment and, therefore, should be catered to that moment," he said.

Of his mother, Fraser said, "She is the nicest, caring human being on the earth."

Then he laughed and added, "I think that I am the opposite of my mother."

'I Had No Clue'

Opening a restaurant can be daunting, especially in a hyper-competitive market like New York City.

"I had no clue what I was doing" when Dovetail opened, Fraser admitted.

"I knew how to cook, but everything else was trial and error. I consider myself very lucky that the outcome has been very good," he said. "As far as business goes, I think the best thing you can do is provide yourself with infrastructure -- people around you who know and can catch you when you start to fail or slip. And some of the best chefs have failed because they can't count, essentially -- not enough seats, spending too much money. It's very simple. "

Want a great restaurant? Fraser believes you need a point of view. He hopes the one he conveys is simplicity.

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