David Spear is a self-described foodie with an adventurous spirit. He spent four years living in Asia and four years living in Spain. He’s been a cheese monger in New York City and managed a farmers’ market in New Jersey. He says that he’ll try anything when it comes to food. “For me, it’s a doorway into other cultures, and food is something that ties us all together,” Spear said as he described the silkworm stew he encountered in South Korea to a classroom full of NECAT students.
David, who graduated from NECAT in June of 2017, came back to give back. “I love this place. This place has had a pretty profound effect on me.”
Two and a half years ago David found his way to NECAT after going through a rough period in his life. “I got myself into trouble after a car accident. I got addicted to things I shouldn’t have. And then I got into recovery.” His recovery program referred him to NECAT where he was able to find focus again, gaining valuable training that has put him on the career path he’s on today.
“The education you get here at NECAT introduces you to a variety of different avenues in the industry.” Chef Spear told students about his own industry journey since completing his training, including stretches at Chipotle, Legal Sea Food, an Italian chain (Polcari’s/ Regina’s) and an Irish gastropub. He has been the Chef and Kitchen Manager at the Friendly Toast in Cambridge since the beginning of the year. “I have a staff of 20. We have our own bakery. The role includes food purchasing, hiring, familiarity with employment laws, managing both hourly staff and sous chefs who are salaried. As a Chef you’re responsible for everything. There are a variety of options open to you through NECAT…You can cook, manage, write about food, teach, menu create…it’s all about what speaks to you and your interests.”
Since graduating from NECAT, he’s worked in a number of kitchens across Boston, getting experience and climbing the ladder. “The more exposure and experience you get, the better,” he says. “Sure, sometimes the work has its repetitive parts, but if you’re open-minded, you can always make it better. You can always take something – a recipe, a dish – and elevate it. That’s an exciting part about cooking.” He went on saying, “if you’re passionate about food and service and people – you’re on the right path.”
During his visit Chef Spear demonstrated and explained the value of essential cooking techniques to a class of 25. He resonated with students, giving them the chance to see a NECAT graduate who had overcome adversity not unlike their own, sharing with confidence the techniques he taken into his culinary career.
“Think about being openminded, think about what you can give, how you can help others develop the same as you have. It’s such an honor to be able to be here teaching and working with you as students and developing chefs.”
“The resources you have here are abundant. Ask as much as you can while you’re here,” he reminded the class. “The Chefs are incredible resources as are the career professionals (like Jon and Vic). When you get out in the working world, things move faster. What you can get here at NECAT, in a relatively short time, is a tremendous amount of information. It’s a tremendous resource. And here I am a couple of years later, and my life and options are immeasurably better because of what NECAT gave me.”