See Food, Differently

By Vanessa Grillone, WorkStory Contributor

Richard Hakim is a twenty-six year old Executive Sous Chef at One, a Mark McEwan restaurant in Yorkville. Impressive, right? Well, Richard was born with a spatula in his hand. With a passion for food, the patience to cook it right, and the creativity to see food differently, Richard has made a name for himself in the culinary world. 

Although he spent his youth watching cooking shows and helping his mother in the kitchen, Richard’s professional training began at Humber College. Richard enrolled in a Chef Training Certificate at Humber College right after high school. After completing that one-year certificate, he decided to take Culinary Management. This program would take one more year but Richard knew it would be beneficial to learn both sides of the industry. Richard enjoyed his time at Humber and chose it because he heard many good things about the program. The Humber Room, the college restaurant, was his favourite class. There he met his wife and got a feel for working in a restaurant. Butchery was another favourite class of his, breaking down whole proteins really intrigued him.

As part of the Humber Certificate, each student must complete a co-op at another restaurant. Richard worked at the Marriott Hotel downtown for two months. Even though he enjoyed his time there and worked with great people, he learned that the hotel industry was not the cooking route he wanted to follow. So, he applied to One and found himself in his element. In the kitchen there are six stations, pantry (cold foods), hot appetizers, veggies, pasta, sauce and grill. Twenty-year-old Richard started on pantry, worked hard and absorbed everything his chefs told him. By age twenty-three, after working his way up through the various stations, he was promoted to Jr. Sous Chef. His hard work and dedication to cooking continued and Richard was made an Executive Sous Chef last year.

For Richard, the best part of cooking is about making people happy, “It means the world to me when I send out a dish and get amazing feedback from the customers. It reassures me that I'm in the right career”. He also loves transforming ingredients into dishes that could potentially be on the menu. He loves to create delicious and aesthetically pleasing meals. “The worst part of being a chef”, he says “are the hours but in order to move up in the cooking industry you have to put in a lot of time”.

 For all aspiring chefs, Richard has some advice:

“Be prepared to make a lot of sacrifices – I’ve missed a lot of family functions and time away from the people I love most for my job. You have to be willing to work very hard and make a balance in your work life and home life. Most importantly, you need to have a passion for cooking in order to succeed.”