Adrian Chan is a go-getter. He’s finishing strong in his senior year at Mason High School - four AP classes, lots of extracurriculars. But the serious young man comes alive when he talks about food. That passion - and his incredible persistence - is now taking Chan down a different path than his family and friends may have once saw for him. After Chan graduates from Mason High School, he’s headed west to work for his culinary idol, Chef Dominique Crenn - a French chef best known for gaining two Michelin stars for her restaurant, Atelier Crenn, in San Francisco.
This year during Mason’s Personal Learning Days, Chan had a plan. After being inspired by Chef Crenn’s appearance on the Netflix series Chef’s Table, Chan convinced his parents to let him go to San Francisco to see if he could connect with Crenn over winter break.
“I was so intrigued by her perspective where food is art. She is really communicating with her customers through a plate of food.”
Chan booked his plane ticket and stayed with some family friends while in San Francisco. He then set out to see Atelier Crenn in person. After hanging around the outside of the restaurant, he saw some staff inside getting ready for the immense dinner preparations. Chan saw his chance.
It Would Be a True Honor To Wash Dishes For You
“I was nervous. I thought - I should just leave. I don’t want to bother... But it was around 12ish and Chef Crenn actually came by. She was very nice, so open. I told her that I came here to see her. That I’m in my senior year and that college is very important. That I was planning to go into architectural engineering - but I just knew that deep inside I want to cook food. I told her it would be a true honor to wash dishes for you guys.”
What was the Chef’s reaction to the earnest young man’s offer? “Why Not?” Crenn told him to come back at 4:45pm, and wear comfortable clothing.
Chan couldn’t believe his good fortune. He spent the next hours trying to keep up in the fast-paced world of a Michelin-star restaurant. At the end of the night, he humbly asked the Chef if he could come back and work for free the rest of the week. Once again, Crenn said yes. Adrian spent the next days of his winter break working 12-hour shifts - and loving every minute of the hands-on experience he was getting.
“I couldn’t believe that these people who were my idols were allowing me to help. I was cleaning the walk-in fridge, picking some of the microgreens from the courtyard garden, and finally I was even helping prep food - including a beautiful house made cheese dish.”
Chan’s adventure culminated on New Year’s Eve - one of the busiest nights of the year for any restaurant.
“It’s hard to describe the energy that is happening in the kitchen. It was very emotional for me to be a part of Chef Crenn’s team. She didn’t have to take a chance on me, but she did.”
Before Chan left to come home to Mason, the Atelier Crenn team prepared him a 13-course meal that starred an aged Wagu beef. “It was hands down the best meal of my life. It was such a complex flavor profile. I will never forget this experience.”
In July, Chan plans to head back to San Francisco to begin his next chapter.
Learn More About What Other Mason Students Did For Personal Learning Days at the Personal Learning Days Showcase
On Tuesday, May 2, from 6-8pm Mason City Schools is hosting a Personal Learning Days Showcase in the Mason High School Large Commons. The Showcase will feature more than 30 Mason Early Childhood Center, Western Row Elementary, Mason Intermediate School, Mason Middle School and Mason High School students who used their personal learning days in extraordinary ways and maximized their learning experiences.