30 Under 30: Sean Telo, Executive Chef at Extra Fancy

Photo by Nicolas Maloof

Last week marked the release of our annual 30 Under 30 issue, and because each of these individuals is so interesting, we thought we’d further highlight them by running some brief interviews with them.

Name: Sean Telo
Age: 27
Neighborhood: Williamsburg
Occupation: Executive Chef at Extra Fancy

Who would be your choice for a 30 Under 30?
My pick would actually be someone who no longer lives in New York, but whose food I really admired while he was the Executive Chef of Skal on the LES—Ben Spiegel. His drive and flavor profiles matched with his impeccable technique were humbling and relentlessly impressive.

Who are your role models in your industry?
Angus Brown of Lusca and Octopus Bar in Atlanta; Thomas Keller of French Laundry, Per Se, Bouchon, Ad Hoc; Cory Lee of Benu in San Francisco; Grant Achatz of Alinea and Next in Chicago; and the late Edna Lewis, cookbook author and formerly of Gage and Tollner in Brooklyn.

What was a turning point for you, when you realized you could make a career out of something you loved to do?
The second I stepped into Richard Blais’s kitchen at Home in Atlanta. I was 19 years old and I felt like the world suddenly had endless possibilities waiting for me if I kept my head down and learned as much as I could from him.

What’s some advice you’d have for people looking to get a foothold in your industry?
Don’t go to culinary school.
Don’t watch Food TV.
Learn how to cook really well with fire, fat and salt.
Don’t expect anything to be handed to you, including money. If you get into the restaurant industry to make money you’ve failed before you began.
Oh, and never use the fucking term “molecular gastronomy.”

Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for young people to build a career?
Absolutely. The industry is currently in a drought of talented, professional cooks. If you’re a cook willing to work long, hard hours, the jobs are there if you look for them.

Have you ever felt like leaving your career path?
I’ve never wanted to do anything but be a chef and own a restaurant, ever.

What’s felt like your biggest professional accomplishment?
Not sure. Cooking at the Beard House was cool. I guess part of being a chef is never really feeling that sense of accomplishment, in that way at least. Everything can always be better, tighter, tastier.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Celebrating the ten year anniversary of you asking me that question.

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