Before world-famous chefs were able to present their carefully curated menus to the world, they encountered interesting events that propelled them along their career paths. Image Credit: Unsplash/Kyle Head

A chance event can lead you right to the top of your career, practically overnight.

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A 2019 study by UK-based Southampton Business School and France-based Audencia Business School analysed the lives of 30 chefs in world-renowned restaurants and found that a majority of them blossomed in their careers late in their lives, or as the result of an incident that no one saw coming. The study also found that only nine of the 30 chefs went into their career based on an early “calling”.

Some interesting examples from the study include Alexa Atala, a Brazilian chef who runs D.O.M. in Sao Paulo, Brazil (rated the fourth best in the world by UK-based Restaurant magazine). Atala signed up for cooking school out of desperation, because he wanted to extend his visa when living in Europe. American chef Nancy Silverton and Mexican restaurateur Enrique Olvera, both award-winning chefs, began cooking well in an effort to impress their partners.

The universe also seemed to intervene in some chefs’ career paths.

Dan Barber, an award-winning American chef at the Blue Hill restaurant in New York, US, overestimated the quantity of asparagus he needed and realised he had bought too much. So, he decided to base an entire menu on it at his restaurant, including an unusual asparagus ice cream. Two hours later, a respected restaurant critic walked through the doors of his restaurant. He ate the unique dishes, and left the chef and his team a glowing review a few days later. The article called Barber’s restaurant the epitome of farm-to-table, and gave it direction that defined his career and focus in cuisine.

Similarly, Spanish pastry chef Jordi Roca, who won the inaugural World’s Best Pastry Chef award from Restaurant magazine, was only able to seize his big opportunity in the culinary world when the main chef at the restaurant broke his leg. Roca took charge, and the rest is history.

While serendipity played a role in some chefs’ lives, the individuals worked hard and persevered to hold on to the chances given to them, and to thrive. The study found that the one thing all the chefs had in common was a mastery of French haute-cuisine, but they achieved their global status by specialising in dishes that were inspired by their own roots.

What do you think of the role of chance events in changing the course of our lives? Play today’s Word Search and tell us at