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Beginnings: The Breakthrough Moment

Dan Barber, Chef

I felt like I’d never tasted an egg before.

Dan Barber as a kid.  

My mother died when I was very young and I grew up with my father making me these like horrible scrambled eggs for breakfast. Terrible, I mean like the things that are so dry and that have been on the buffet line for 45 minutes when you get there, or an hour, two hours, right?

I got strep throat I must have been like 13 or 14. Terrible strep throat. And my aunt, who is a great, great cook she trained in Le Cordon Bleu in Paris or whatever she cooked for me. I remember my throat was so sore and she cooked me scrambled eggs over a double boiler, you know, so they were supersoft and runny and she whisked them and they were like little clouds. I’ll never forget it I was starting to feel better, so I had a little bit of an appetite, and they just slid down my throat. I’ll never forget the feeling. It was revelatory. I felt like I’d never tasted an egg before.

As a chef, very early on I failed miserably. A restaurant that I was the chef at went out of business. I’d been fired before from jobs, and I was finally making a go of this career, I was a chef at a restaurant, and it went out of business. That feeling of a restaurant dying has stayed with me. It has been a motivating factor, but not out of the sense of, like, I’m better now and I’m more skilled. Just the sense of fear fear is a big factor in all of this. Fear of failure. Well, that’s the truth. It ain’t easy. I’m scared of failure, because I’ve experienced it.