Many people don't make it in this industry because of the demanding schedule. Many people are simply unwilling to write off every weekend for the rest of their lives, to allow relationships to fall by the wayside, to give up on the idea of having a normal family life, many people quit. Triniti sous chef Kerrick Robertson has the enviable position of working at one of Houston's finest restaurants, and at the same time raising, with the help of her mom, a very happy little four year old girl. Many people would find either one of these tasks to be daunting, even overwhelming, but Robertson manages to do both of them very well.
How did you get the cooking bug? My grandmother is from Gorman, Texas, a real small town. I think her graduating class was like 12 people or something. She grew up cooking down home, country style meals. My parents both work, they're nine to fivers, and so dinner for us was always something really quick. My grandmother grew up cooking pork chops, chicken fried steak, fried chicken. Basically, if there isn't a lot of fat in it, then it's not gonna be on that table, which is awesome. For me it was fun just to watch her do it.
So you're going to school to be a teacher and what happens? I didn't feel like I fit in, the whole school, the huge classes, it wasn't for me, so I came home and my dad says 'well what about cooking? You've always liked to cook.' So we went online and found (the Culinary Institute) LeNotre in Houston and on my next break from school we came down to check it out and that was it, started cooking."
Where was your first job after school? My first job was at Bistro Provence. How was that? It was honestly just a job, the food there was really basic, the chef at the time was not very exciting, but I still learned a lot there. You can take something away from any experience. What's interesting is (Ryan) Hildebrand actually worked there. He was the next chef to come though after I had quit; we missed each other by like a month and a half.
What was next? After Bistro Provence I actually answered an ad for the Tasting Room, they needed a sandwich maker, so I went in there and made sandwiches for like six months until they finally started moving me up. I worked there for three years total. My daughter was born half way through, one month after my twenty-first birthday.
How have you managed to stay in the industry and still be a dad? It's hard man, it's really hard. Right now I'm working twelve to fourteen hour days, six days a week. Camille usually gets up at 7:00 a.m., so I have a few hours with her until I go in at 10:00 a.m., and then maybe a couple of hours after work before she goes to bed. You just have to make the time you have count as best you can. The hardest part of my job is having to leave her with the sitter all day.
Have you ever thought about quitting? I've gotten to the point, two or three times in my career, where I've had serious thoughts about quitting. She's gonna start school pretty soon, and her mom is a chef, too, so picking her up might be a problem. I've thought about it a lot though and I always decide to keep cooking. I feel like I'm finally to the point where I've built up my resume and my reputation, to quit now would mean starting over at something totally new. With Camille, there is no room for that kind of uncertainty; taking care of her has to be my first priority, you know?