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Issue #274 – Student Successes

Weekly Newsletter

by Liya Swift

Student Successes

CASA grad Jonathan Shahandeh Gets Hired
at Michelin-Starred Restaurant!


CASA graduate Jonathan Shahandeh (in color) with Pasta|Bar Team

  In late 2020, during the pandemic, Jonathan Shahandeh decided it was time to change careers and finally invest in taking his passion for cooking seriously. Seven months after starting the CASA Gourmet Chef Program, Jonathan was hired onto the team as garde manger at Scratch Restaurants’ upscale, contemporary Pasta|Bar in Los Angeles. Just a few months after that, Pasta|Bar won its first Michelin star. The Michelin Guide says the contemporary tasting-menu-only restaurant “is one for the books” and calls their caprese “exalted” and the visionary chef staff “wonderfully engaging.”   We connected with the recent grad to learn more about his CASA experiences and hands-on training at Scratch restaurants, get the lowdown on Pasta|Bar winning the coveted Michelin star, and more, so read on!   Have you always had an interest in cooking?   “Yeah, since I was maybe 12 or 13. That’s when I started cooking… I loved watching the Food Network in the early days. It was really interesting to me, Iron Chef, all those great shows. I really just had this urge to try some stuff because I was like, ‘Ooh, I saw that on TV. It looked cool. I want to do that.’ So, I started making dinners for my family once, twice, three times, four times a week. It just kept escalating. …   And then somewhere along the line in college, I kind of lost that. And during the pandemic that sort of came back [to it] because I’m stuck at home. I had nothing else to do. I had more free time on my hands than previously, so cooking was just like a good way to fill time and it’s something I love to do. And then I got to the point where I was spending more time preparing meals and cooking for myself than I was actually doing my real work… that kind of triggered for me this idea of like… ‘I’m not happy with what I’m doing. Why don’t I change jobs and become a chef? I know all about that.’ And that’s just where it all started really.”   It’s been a little over one year since you enrolled in CASA. Do you feel you’ve grown over that time?   “Oh, absolutely. I mean, night and day, especially in a professional environment. When I first started, I was awful…. If you ask Chef Nate [Tauer] about that, he’ll tell you the same thing. I was horrible. I could not manage that station. …   For the longest time, he was setting up on what is my station now. You know, he’d set up cutting boards. He’d work there. I would come in. I’d set up next to him on this little raised thing right next to it…. And one of the things that he told me was… ‘You need to jump into the deep end. You need to want this station to be your station.’  


After he told me that, I came in the next day, and I put my cutting board on my station. He walked in without saying a word. He set up his cutting board on the one [station] right next to me, over to the side. …   I started timing myself on tasks. You know, when I’m doing potatoes, how long does it take me to do a brunoise on the potatoes that we need?… And how much do I need every day? And really starting to understand each individual component to each dish that I’m executing, but also how much that prep takes, how much it’s going to affect me, how much I can prep in advance, how I can schedule my days out so that I’m not, you know, in this chaos mode of running behind all the time. And at some point, he stopped helping me and just said, ‘Good luck. It’s 100% on you.’” Find out how Jonathan landed the position of garde manger at Pasta|Bar in the video below!   Winning the Michelin star, how did it happen?   “They [Michelin Guide] told us, ‘Hey, we’re going to come in. We’re going to do a quick meeting with you guys.’ And so it was kind of a normal day for us. We were just doing all of our prep. And then our PR team comes in, the Michelin person comes in, the chef-owner of the Scratch Bar came in, Phillip [Chef Phillip Frankland Lee], and they just gathered everybody around…


  And then all of a sudden, we just kind of overheard, ‘Congratulations, Pasta Bar and Sushi Bar, you both earned a Michelin star.’ And we all kind of froze in our tracks and like, ‘Did we hear that right?’…   Then we had like a month period where we knew we had the star but we couldn’t tell anybody because we had NDAs. So, we had, you know, regulars coming in that we really wanted to share the information with and it’s like you can’t tell anybody. You can’t tell your family. …   It’s been crazy [since] … we went from doing anywhere from 12 to 18 covers and expecting that that was busy… to doing 24 to 26 every single night…. There was definitely a lot of growth that happened for everybody on the team during that period. Because when we first started, it was like this ridiculous, we were so tired, we were going to break. It’s going to just kill us. Now we do that every single night and it’s, like, easy…. It’s been interesting because it pushed me a lot further faster, I think, getting that star than I would have gotten if we hadn’t earned the star.”   What’s your advice to other CASA students? How can they make the most of CASA while they’re in it?   “Step up and take the initiative. One of the things I’ll say, whenever you walk into a new kitchen… forget everything you know. Pretend you know nothing. Because if they tell you to do a task and you do it the way that you’ve done it for somebody else, it may not be the way they want it done or that they think it should be done. So… if you get something new… ask them, ‘How do you want me to do it? Do you want me to cut it this way? Do you want me to cut it that way?”   You’ve turned your passion into a career. Now that you’ve made the switch, are you generally a happier person than you were before?   “Oh, absolutely. I love going into work every day. I love the people that I work with…. We all have a good working relationship with each other. We all respect each other…. It’s been really nice to be able to do something you love every single day with people that you love being around.”     Learn more about CASA, The Chef Apprentice School of the Arts.  
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