Sprouts Alum Katelyn and Mentor Chef Roland Passot Inspire on NBC Bay Area
In this ‘Bay Area Proud’ segment from NBC, renowned San Francisco chef Roland Passot talks about the evolution of his approach to culinary training, culminating in his mentorship of Sprouts Chef Trainee Katelyn. Katelyn shares her own transformative story, made possible by the nurturing environment of Passot’s iconic restaurant La Folie and local San Francisco nonprofit organization Sprouts Chef Training.
Here’s the story, as told by NBC:
Fifty years ago, when Roland Passot began his journey that would take him to the heights of French cuisine, there was good food of course, just not always good times. The treatment of those looking to make a name for themselves often involved a lot of name-calling by the chefs training them and worse. Abusive is another name for it. “It was. It was absolutely,” Passot said.
But it was a system that made Passot into the great chef he is, so why wouldn’t he do the same when he was in charge? He did. “I was like, ‘Ok, this is how it goes,’” Passot said. So, Passot brought that intense, fiery demeanor to La Folie, a San Francisco Institution Passot ran with his wife Jamie from 1988 to 2020.
His celebrated, storied career, however, came at the expense of his staff. “I was definitely not easy in the kitchen,” Passot said. “I was pretty violent in the way of yelling and screaming. I was abused and became the abuser.”
Then one day Passot’s wife suggested a rudimentary but revolutionary concept: treat others the way he wished he had been treated. “I needed to change my way of managing people,” Passot said. “Really getting people to listen to me but showing them the way instead of being a tyrant, realizing there is another way of managing people.” Passot was amazed by what he saw. His staff became more confident, creative and just overall better chefs.
He had taken a chance and it had paid off. This may explain why when the nonprofit Sprouts Chef Training asked Passot to take a chance on someone else, he jumped at the chance. It also paid off.
When the then 15-year-old Katelyn Neroza came to intern for Passot at La Folie, she was a truant, a substance user and a runaway. “Just very lost and confused,” Neroza said. But Neroza found the discipline and structure of working in a kitchen a good fit for her. She found the family atmosphere Passot now cultivated in his kitchen just as important.
“I don’t think there is anything I would rather do in life than work in a kitchen,” Neroza said, who’s now embarking on her own journey as a chef.
“There is a saying in French: Impossible is not French, so everything is possible. You can change and realize that there is a better way. There is always a better way,” Passot said.
And Passot couldn’t be prouder [of Katelyn]. “I think it’s amazing because she is an inspiration to all those people who are at the bottom of the ladder and want to go up,” he said.
Katelyn’s remarkable story serves as a testament to the healing power of kitchens, one of the core beliefs at Sprouts Chef Training. Passot’s dedication to nurturing talent has not only transformed his own approach but has also paved the way for heartwarming success stories like Katelyn’s to flourish. At Sprouts Chef Training, we are incredibly grateful for the dozens of chefs joining the effort, welcoming youth into their own professional kitchens to learn and grow with the help of restaurant families.
Published August 2023. Many thanks to NBC and author Garvin Thomas.
About Sprouts Chef Training
Sprouts is a 501(c)(3) San Francisco-based nonprofit organization helping youth land culinary jobs and launch careers in food. Learn More
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