If you want to be a chef, the first thing Chris Young thinks you should do before parting ways with a king’s ransom in the form of time and money at culinary school is to just jump directly into the fire.
“If you think you might want to be a professional chef, the best thing you should do is go intern at a restaurant for maybe six weeks,” said Young. “And if you still think that’s a good idea, after six weeks of getting your ass kicked, then by all means be a professional chef.”
This response from Young came during a live podcast interview on Clubhouse where Young and I started talking about the future of restaurants.
One of the biggest changes the onetime Fat Duck employee and coauthor of Modernist Cuisine sees on the horizon is how new models powered by technology, like ghost kitchens and virtual restaurants, will reshape the restaurant. While Young still thinks there will always be demand for places where people can go, sit down, and have great food made by a chef a few yards away in the kitchen, that world – in other words what we’ve known for centuries as a restaurant – will be increasingly upended by the arrival of new models created by the likes of virtual restaurant concepts like that MrBeast Burgers.
“I saw that and went ‘everything just changed about restaurants,'” said Young.
Young pointed to Apple and the consumer electronics industry to explain his thinking.
In the world of electronics, “the people that design the product are very rarely the people that also manufacture it,” said Young. “That’s something we figured out in a lot of things. Apple designs. Apple engineers. Apple does not assemble [products], they have somebody else who specializes in assembly do that.”
But restaurants – unlike most other industry nowadays – remains for the most part vertically integrated.
“Restaurants are kind of weird because you’ve coupled the creative with the manufacturing,” said Young. “You might not think of a restaurant as a factory, but it’s a small micro scale, horribly inefficient factory.”
And according to Young, what MrBeast and others like him has showed is the restaurant can be unbundled.
“What MrBeast showed is we’re going to be able to take apart the creative, the marketing, and everything about the concept and we’re gonna be able to completely divorce that from the manufacturing. If you have a great idea and if you have an audience that gives a shit, then you’re going to be able to do a deal with people who specialize in the manufacturing of recipes and you’ll be able to roll out a national chain of your bagel joints. Within a couple of weeks and everybody who wants one of your bagels can get one of your bagels.”
So what exactly should a young would-be culinary empire builder do if they are excited about this crazy unbundled restaurant future according to Young?
“Learn to cook,” said Young. “But maybe you should [also] build a YouTube channel, rather than trying to invest in a restaurant.”
In other words, you should know your way around a kitchen, but also understand that might not mean a career cooking in a dine-in restaurant.
“My advice is you really want to be thinking about what the restaurant is going to be in the future,” said Young, “and a little less about, ‘do I go get a culinary education and start cooking in a restaurant?’ I think that world is largely over.”