Some people never quite figure out their life's mission, while others, like Doug Psaltis, know from an early age. By the time he was 10, Psaltis was already working in the kitchen of his Greek grandfather's diner in Queens. He had no idea then that his quest would take him through several influential kitchens.
His first big-time gig was with Wayne Nish at March restaurant. He later joined David Bouley at the then justopened Bouley Bakery, which earned four stars from the New York Times.
After Bouley, Psaltis went on to work for Alain Ducasse at Essex House. "Everything we did was either perfect or wrong . . . there was no gray area," he says of the experience. It proved to be another four-star experience.
Psaltis was so impressive that Ducasse asked him to head his new restaurant, Mix. Ducasse told the New York Times that Psaltis was "the best cook in my kitchen."
That experience got him an invite to the French Laundry in Napa, where he worked with Thomas Keller before returning to New York to accept his current post as executive chef of Country, Geoffrey Zakarian's latest restaurant.
Like family meals at his grandfather's diner, which featured platters of food to be shared, Country, too, offers platters that Psaltis prepares as part of a $58 set modern European-American menu.
Psaltis's story of becoming a chef, titled The Seasoning of a Chef: My Journey from Diner to Ducasse and Beyond, was recently published. It's a beautiful thing knowing one's life mission at an early age.