July 15, 2020 9 min read
Chef Yuri Szarzewski is an Executive Chef and Co-Owner of Partage and EATT Gourmet Bistro in Las Vegas Nevada. Growing up in Béziers, France Szarzewski began his professional career at just 17 years old when he apprenticed at L’Ambassade restaurant with chef Patrick Orly. At this time, it was the only Michelin Star Restaurant in the town of Béziers.
Szarzewski attended a restaurant school for four years where he obtained two professional degrees. He won an apprentice competition in his hometown and brought home an international cooking master chef competition from Stockport, UK. Following his success at competitions, Yuri spent two years working a 2-Star Michelin Restaurant L’Oustau de Baumaniére at Les Baux de Provence, France.
Chef Szarzewski boasts experience at some of the finest Palaces in Paris over a four-year time span. This impressive list contains locations such as Le Bristol - 3 Michelin Stars Chef Eric Frechon, Palace George V - 2 Michelin Star Chef Eric Briffard, and Palace Shangri-La - Chef Philippe Labbé.
“Right after those 4 incredible years, I was able to serve as Sous Chef at Jean restaurant, a 1 Michelin Star Restaurant. After 2 years I felt I had to do something new, and for myself, so I decided to pursue my childhood dream to move to the US to open my own restaurant. I didn’t know, at this point, how and where I would like to land but Nicolas Kalpokdjian my future business partner had an idea – Las Vegas.”
Yuri immediately fell in love with the idea of beginning his new life in Vegas. It took the pair approximately 6 months to develop a concept that would be attractive enough to present and interest the United States Embassy in Paris. After a successful presentation, the two landed in Las Vegas with 2 bags and 15k in hand to start a new life.
“I would say it was hard at first to leave family and friends behind, but we had a goal. Living the American dream to make those who support us proud, especially my mom,” said Szarzewski.
Since he was a kid, Yuri always shared valuable moments with his mom while she was cooking. Whenever he’d get home from school his first stop was the kitchen so he could breathe the flavorful cuisine from his mother.
“I was always asking her to show me or to explain her recipes so that I could make them myself. I remember going with her to the farmers market to carefully pick seasonal and fresh ingredients. Then we would listen to some music and sing while creating recipes with the products we just bought. It was an amazing time that I keep cherishing now as it brought me into the culinary industry. My mom inspires me a lot today too, and a lot of my recipes have been influenced by those memories in the kitchen when I was a kid.”
Yuri did however admit that the real reason he started his career in the kitchen at 17 years old was that he always admired famous Michelin Star Chefs and the joy they brought to their clients. “I remember seeing people crying after eating a special dish and that struck me and pushed me to become a Chef. To me, sharing my memories, ideas, and creations with my clients is the best reward of becoming a Chef. When I create a tasting menu and my clients just sit down and relax to enjoy my cuisine, I feel very proud. To give them a unique experience where they forget their daily chores and focus on the present is an incredible feeling.”
Throughout time some of his guests have become close friends, “They love the place and just keep coming back, sometimes even twice a day. I would say that walking and greeting the dining room is very rewarding for me as I can receive feedback directly from my clients. Even though the feedback can sometimes hurt I always take it as a way to get better and adapt my recipes to please even more customers.”
Since his first interest in food, Yuri has grown up cooking with seasonal ingredients available at farmers’ markets in the South of France. “I remember the colorful shops of the farmers and me asking about any vegetables I would not know. This has led me to love using seafood and vegetables to bring colors to my plates, I love to share my colorful vision of cuisine. My cooking has been strongly influenced by Mediterranean flavors and products. The values I grew up with have influenced my style of cooking as well. The very first chef I worked for, Patrick Orly, brought me to the local farm where he could handpick his vegetables. I felt the love in this way, I could tell how enhanced the flavors were through harvesting your ingredients yourself. I do my best to put my heart on each plate and I am prepared to show who I am by picking only the best ingredients in order to create a surprising combination for each guest.”
Chef Yuri Szarzewski has been cooking for more than 14 years professionally. The discipline, organization, and key values were all learned in prestigious Michelin Star restaurants. Sharing those values with his team is really important as it has molded Yuri into who he is today. “To me, a friendly environment where each member of my team can cover for the others is the main success factor for growth. My colleagues describe me as a very demanding but fair chef who knows what he wants and who always makes sure that my recipes are 100% authentic and curated the way I have crafted them. I never rest on what experience and knowledge I have learned, and I am constantly striving to improve my cuisine. My colleagues are sometimes surprised about the ideas I can have and about my way of implementing them, which is why I decided to show my skills on TV. I am a Chopped champion (Season 37 E12) and I recently competed on Beat Bobby Flay.”
“I would say I’ve already accomplished my dream to become a chef in my own restaurant, but my greatest accomplishment today is that I’ve become the person I’ve always wanted to be. Professionally I’ve successfully gone through all of the steps. When I first began my apprenticeship when I was 17 I wanted to work in the most prestigious restaurant in my hometown, find work at Le Bristol Hotel in Paris, become a Sous Chef in a Michelin Star restaurant, and eventually design cuisine in my very own restaurant. As of today, I’ve managed to accomplish all of these goals with hard work and discipline, and that makes me really proud. I have met my wife in a restaurant, and today I am really grateful to have her at my side to support me; she has given me the most beautiful gift… a beautiful son. I am proud to become a dad and hope to be his model and his hero. The feeling of becoming a dad is just amazing. I don’t know what Max is going to do in his life but what’s sure is if he wants to become a chef one day, I will teach him the best way I can from top to bottom.”
“My older brother is a famous rugby player in France. I grew up hearing people around me and, in my family, speaking highly about him. That forced me to be even more demanding with myself to find my place and be acknowledged as well for who I am. Today I know that our mother is proud of us both we have become the person we wanted to be by carrying the values she taught us. I’ll make sure to give my son the same education, to be respectful to everyone, to be strong, and to live a proper and wonderful life.”
Q1: You’ve clearly had quite an incredible and successful journey thus far. Have you thought about appearing in any more competitions? What else do you hope to achieve in your culinary career and what can we expect to see from you in the future?
A: Competing in a TV show is very exciting but really demanding as well. More than a million Americans are watching this show, it can be either good or bad for my public image. I am a competitor, so I like the idea of challenging myself and getting out of my comfort zone. You are going to see me on a major TV show “Beat Bobby Flay” once it airs. I've also recently become “Maitre cuisinier de France” (French Master Chef) so I would like, in the future to represent this academy and compete in any competition that can help my career and restaurants.
Q2: Chopped is obviously a very challenging experience. How did you prepare before you went on the show and what would you attribute your success too? Do you currently offer 7-layer dip soba noodles on the menu at Partage?
A: As soon I knew, I would compete in “Chopped”, I switched my mind and went into competition mode. My close friend Kristal came over my restaurant every week with a mystery basket and I had to beat the clock with those weird ingredients. Every Monday, on my day off, I went to her house to practice in a different kitchen environment.
When the show aired on TV, I organized a viewing party in my restaurant, where I served a better version of what I cooked during the episode.
Q3: Do you have a “signature dish” or a favorite dish you enjoy preparing? What about a favorite ingredient? How would you say your style has developed over the years? Is there a secret to success for restaurants?
A: I do have signature dishes like the oxtail croque monsieur topped with bone marrow, or the perfect truffle egg, smoked in a magic bowl. But what I prefer to prepare and customize my way is the famous duck Pithivier. Some people are coming from all over the United States to Las Vegas for this dish.
For years, I have developed a different approach to manage a team. I define myself as a “chef d’orchestre” who stand in front of the brigade and not on a line to have a better understanding and overview of everything happening in the kitchen.
I brought my south of France’s knowledge and skills to the US and added the American twist to my toolbox. Among those, a powerful seasoning and going straight to the point to please a larger crowd.
If you want success in this business, you have to be ready to change and not only rely on what you know or are used to. You also have to deal with the human factor, be close enough to your staff but not too close to maintain distance and respect. It is a tricky game but necessary.
Q4: What does your day look like when you have some free time in Las Vegas? What restaurant could we find you dining at on a night off?
A:My wife and I consider ourselves “foodies”, in a sense that during our days off, we really enjoy discovering new restaurants in Las Vegas.
I like to go out and not staying on my couch, so I am sharing my time between my wife and son and my golfer friends. Golf is a good way to release my stress from running a business.
Q5: As someone who looks for, and hires success for their kitchen, what do you look for specifically when you are going about hiring a new chef for your restaurants? Do you have any advice for someone who is just getting started, or who may be wanting to start a career in the culinary industry?
A: Hiring in this industry is the most important part because you have to find the right fit for your restaurant, the cooking style, and the working ambiance between the staff members. A chef can be an amazing cook, can be the best with knives and pans but can be a bad manager.
You have to understand when you spend most of your life in the kitchen that you will spend more time with your team than with your family and friends. When you think about it, your coworkers are part of your entourage. If you work in a stressful environment, that can become dangerous for everyone. It is definitely more important to find a chef with a human approach than a culinary star with a mean mindset.
I usually prefer hiring someone based on my first feeling rather than on his resume.
If you're interested in learning more about chef Yuri Szarzewski you can follow him on Instagram @chefyuri_vegas or visit his restaurant pages @partagelv and @eatt_gourmetbistro. If you're ever in Vegas be sure to stop by either to try their delicious menu.
If this is your first time joining us for a Q&A as a reader thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate any and all customer interactions, feel free to leave a comment for chef Yuri or for us here at Clement Design.
We love to use our featured chef series to introduce our wonderful audience with some of the amazing and talented chefs who choose Clement Design every day.
We wanted to thank Yuri for taking the time out of his busy schedule for our Featured Chef Series Q&A and for being such a wonderful chef to work with. If you are interested in learning more about how you could become a featured chef in the future please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, be sure to check out Partage or EATT Gourmet Bistro if you're in Las Vegas!
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