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Home > FINE DINING > Las Vegas Fine Dining > Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare > Conversations with Chefs
Paul Bartolotta (Part 3 of 6)
Apprenticeships are invaluable to young chefs, according to Chef Bartolotta. He's not so sure about culinary schools, however, and is critical of the fact that they position young chefs to think they'll be top chefs right out of school. "Obviously the media hasn't helped," he says. "They have made our industry and the celebrity chef world so exciting, stylish and trendy that people forget that the restaurant business is an artisan's job. It's physical labor and it's hard, relatively thankless labor. The only way you survive in this business is if you love it. If you are driven by your ego, you are driven by a whole set of wrong priorities. I don't think any of the great chefs that got into this business got in it to be a star. They got into this because they have a love of food, hospitality, cooking, making people happy and making flavor. The only thing that's wrong is that television, which has improved our stature and allowed us to make a little more money, has also brought with it a misconception about what our world is really about. You see it all the time. [Students] want to be chefs right away rather than go through what it takes."

So what does it take, one might ask, to build a good restaurant? According to Chef Bartolotta, a good restaurant requires excellent "DNA." "DNA can mean that there is a kinetic sense of what this restaurant is," he says. "A restaurant is a person and you should be able to look at that person and ask, 'Who is this person? How old are they? How do they shop? How do they dress? What are they like?' This restaurant needs to be translated and communicated to the customer. You need to have constant clarity. You need to know who you are. You can go to a hamburger stand on the corner that gives you fries and burgers and that's all that they do. That can be memorable—as long as it communicates with clarity who they are and what they represent. The problem with chain restaurants is that they lack a sense of person. There is no human element or personality. It's a well thought out concept, but it does not exude this personal emotional identity. They have all the elements of concept clarity-the graphics, the menu, the decor, the location, the training, the place, the recipes-but the element for them that's hardest is that emotional part.

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