About Chef David Shalleck

Photo by Caren Alpert

Photo by Caren Alpert

"Les voyage forment les jeunesse"

(Traveling matures youth)

- French proverb

   

I am originally from New York City and now I’m based near San Francisco, California. I have a degree in set and lighting design from Syracuse University and for over three decades I have worked in many parts of the food business.

When I was a child one of my favorite television programs was Graham Kerr’s The Galloping Gourmet. His traveling, cooking, teaching, laughing, and inviting members of his studio audience to dine with him at the end of the show no doubt inspired my decision to cook for a living. Even at a very young age, I saw myself doing the same. Years later, when I entered the restaurant business as a line cook, a perpetual need to learn more led me to the kitchens of many Michelin-starred restaurants in the United States and abroad.

In 2003 I diversified my experience to provide culinary services such as home kitchen planning, recipe development, food product innovation, culinary production, and project management through my company, VOLOCHEF Culinary Solutions.

In food television, I have logged over 250 shows as the culinary producer for such luminaries as Jacques Pépin, José Andrés, and Dorothy Hamilton.

Most recently, I am honored to be one of the chef-instructors at the Oceania Cruises Culinary Center— the only hands-on cooking school at sea— exclusively in the Mediterranean on board the ships Marina and Riviera.


An unexpected JOURNEY

Illustration by Olef Hajek

Illustration by Olef Hajek

Years ago when I was cooking on the line at the Campton Place Hotel restaurant in San Francisco I was offered a stint to help for a few months at a small cooking school in Provence, France. I figured after that job I would stay abroad for a couple more months. I had no idea at the time my sojourn in France and eventually Italy would turn into a six-year culinary Grand Tour of restaurant internships.

Since the internships only provided room and board, cooking on private yachts during the summer seasons was a great way to make some money to get me through the rest of the year. For what was to become my first chef’s job, even though I was oblivious to the many challenges I would face, the opportunity to cook for an Italian family on their beautifully restored classic sailing yacht was an offer I had to take. The entire situation was priceless no matter how difficult it could get. In the aftermath, part of the winnings was having an armada of stories to tell upon my return home. At the time and for many years thereafter I had no idea I would write a book about that experience. In 2007 my culinary travel memoir, Mediterranean Summer was published by Broadway Books. The paperback edition is now in its fourteenth print.


A personal tale of serendipity

What originally prompted me to leave a lucrative situation in California was an excerpt from a book given to me by a woman I was dating at the time. She saw it posted on the wall of a bar in Sausalito, figured it was something I should read, and asked the barman if he could photocopy it, which he did. In retrospect, every time I read this, I’m glad I had the courage to take a bold risk that turned into a significant life experience reward. I encourage you to consider the message:

Photo by Paul Moore

Photo by Paul Moore

“Little has been said or written about the ways a man may blast himself free. Why? I don’t know…

‘I’ve always wanted to sail to the South Seas, but I can’t afford it.’ What these men can’t afford is NOT to go. They’re enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of ‘security.’

And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine—before we know it, our lives are gone.

What does a man need—really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat, shelter, six feet to lie down in—and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all—in the material sense. And we know it.

But we’re brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, and playthings that divert our attention.

The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.

Where then lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse, or bankruptcy of life?”

— STERLING HAYDEN, WANDERER, 1963. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Being young and full of vigor, reading this helped push me to go.

Years later, after my sojourn abroad, while running a restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona I decided to read Mr. Hayden’s book, Wanderer. It didn’t take long to get to the above passage. One night, after a pretty rough dinner service at the restaurant, when I got back to my apartment, I poured myself a double Bourbon and dove into the book. In a section where Mr. Hayden is writing letters to his mother about his first job as a skipper, he was commissioned to deliver a new yacht built at the submarine yards in Connecticut to its first owner in Los Angeles. This was strangely familiar to me. It was only a few pages more into the book I discovered Mr. Hayden was delivering the yacht I worked on sixty-five years later.