All he wanted was to earn $200 to buy a Dodge Dart. Today chef Bernard Carmouche, 44, is culinary director for Emeril Lagasse's three Florida restaurants including Emeril's Orlando, Emeril's Tchoup Chop and Emeril's Miami Beach. Sometimes you never know where fate will steer you.
In high school Carmouche was a dishwasher at Commander's Palace in his hometown of New Orleans. But when the pots were scrubbed, he wasn't one to sit idle. He helped with simple tasks like slicing fruit and he paid attention to how the staff wanted things done. Lagasse noticed and made a pact with Carmouche: Stay in school and I'll help you learn everything you need to know about cooking.
From Commander's Palace and eventually to Emeril's in New Orleans and a coveted internship with acclaimed French chef Roger Verge along the way, Carmouche worked his way up.
"Commander's and Lagasse turned my life around," says Carmouche. "I grew up in a neighborhood where it was very hard to do the right thing."
And just as he was mentored by others, he's constantly on the lookout for young talent in the kitchens he oversees every day in Florida.
"Whatever is taught to you, you teach the next person," says Carmouche. "Mentoring is a gift not to keep, but to pass on."