While many people enjoy making food, the majority cannot say they are skilled at it. Diamond Bar High School (DBHS) alumnus, Max Boonthanakit, fell into the minority when he pursued the art of cooking and became a professional chef.
He serves as the sous chef for Mei Lin, the season 12 winner of the culinary TV show “Top Chef.” A sous chef is the position right below the executive chef in a kitchen’s chain of command. Despite falling in love with cooking at a very young age, Boonthanakit did not know if he necessarily wanted to become a chef.
What he did know is that he wanted to do something that involved food. He also strived for creative freedom.
Before Lin competed on “Top Chef,” she and Boonthanakit worked together at Ink, an acclaimed restaurant in Los Angeles, and became friends.
The pair worked a couple of events together and did private dinners as well.
Because they worked well together, Lin asked Boonthanakit if he wanted to be her sous chef.
“It’s a little different from normal sous chef jobs since we don’t have a restaurant yet, but it still involves lots cooking. I travel with her to cook at events and dinners around the country, and help develop new dishes,” Boonthanakit said.
They are currently working on plans to open a restaurant early next year. After graduating DBHS in 2010, Boonthanakit attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York.
However, halfway through his time in culinary school, he was offered a job at The Bazaar in Los Angeles. He decided to take the job in order to gain experience by actually working in the field. He previously was there on an externship, which is a three-month stint with no pay, and was later offered a position during his enrollment at the Culinary Institute of America.
Boonthanakit admitted that he enjoys everything about being a chef, even the unglamorous parts of the job.
“I love all aspects of it, like the creativeness, the camaraderie, the rush of adrenaline you get during service, the feeling of satisfaction after a long days of work, and wearing clogs!” he confessed.
Boonthanakit recalled Janet Lu, Daniel Roubian and Barbara Shen as his favorite teachers at Diamond Bar. He said that DBHS introduced him to friends and teachers who fully supported his career decision.
Boonthanakit advised high school students that versatility is the key to being successful.
“Stand your ground but know when to be flexible. Figure out what you want to do and commit to being the best or don’t do it at all. You’re biggest obstacle is yourself. Work to better yourself every day,” he said.