Who is Jack Yoss??
Hai Times gets an up close and in depth look into the life, experiences, and travels of Hai Hospitality’s new teammate, Chef Jack Yoss. Here is a Q & A with the curry-master himself.
- What is your full name? Jack Dale Yoss. I was named after my dads brother (my uncle) whom I never met. He died before I was born. I remember going to the cemetery where he was buried; seeing his headstone with my name on it was a strange feeling.
- Where did you grow up? Technically I “grew” up in Boulder City, Nevada. It’s small town outside of Las Vegas. My dad was in mining and oil/gas so before I was five years old I had also lived in Brazil, Greece, and Caracas, Venezuela, but the majority of growing up was done in Nevada.
- What was your first job? My first actual job was at the A&W Root Beer in Boulder City. I was in charge of sweeping the parking lot and mowing the grass. I did get promoted to burger-flipper. I left A&W to pursue something at Pizza Hut.
- What did you do after High School? Well my experience in high school was a little different. I wanted out so I got my GED in 9th Grade and left the house to get a job in Las Vegas. Once in Vegas I got hired at The Rainbow Club (a union job) which was a $0.99 Breakfast and $2.99 Prime Rib type-joint. These were the days when people smoked inside and the kitchen took tickets an old school ticket wheel. Everything was handwritten. I was hired as a dishwasher and the first part of my experience was scraping biscuits and gravy and cigarette butts off plates. Everyone was at least 15 years older than me. I would spend my union-required hour break every day on the hot-line trying to learn how to do it. Eventually they let me flip eggs and some of the salty-dog cooks would give me dry beans and a frying pan to practice the motion of flipping my wrist and tossing the beans without dropping one. Eventually I got promoted to the line and was able to do the real thing. I got hooked on the pace, difficulty, teamwork, camaraderie, and banter that came along with working in a Vegas restaurant in the early 90’s.
- What was it that got you hooked on working in the kitchen? Eventually I got anxious to learn more and do another type of food. I went down to the union and found a job listing for Caesars Palace and Mirage. I ended up getting hired for Nero’s Steak House by culinary legend John Coletta. I was hired out of a large group and really had no idea what I was doing, but they gave me a shot. It was at Nero’s that I really got schooled. It was here that I got to work with some really great Chefs who showed me the ropes and I got my first real stripes. Chef Coletta used to kick me off my station and make me watch him work my station. It was best when he got in the weeds too. He never let me use tongs, only a kitchen fork. At one point he gave us control of the restaurant I remember one time getting to order fish for a special and ordering 100 pounds of Rouge not realizing that they are tiny fish. That was a lot of fish to clean!
- Where did you get your first job as a Chef? In Vegas, I was getting super curious so I started working a second job at another spot in Caesar’s called Chinois. Even during that, I got antsy again and took a 2-week stage trip to San Francisco. I staged at Postrio and it was here that I ended up getting my first Chef experience. At 23, I had packed up my car and moved from Vegas and it was a beast of a restaurant. I worked my way into the Sous Chef position over the 2 years. It was great experience and I learned from some fantastic people. I left to do a 4 month stint in Alaska working at a Fishing Lodge. It was seasonal and when I came back, I was hired as the Chef de Cuisine of Postrio. Sidenote: this is how I met my future wife, Meghan. I was 25 at the time.
- How did you get involved with Uchi? I used to work with John Baydale as the Executive Chef of the W Hotel in Los Angeles. We had known each other for a while and prior to the Uchiko opening, I came to help support the opening. I worked closely with Tyson, Paul, and Philip during and after the opening. Interesting fact: this is around the time when we first started talking about Loro and doing tastings.
- How did you end up in Bali? Between the time I worked at W LA and Uchiko, I traveled and worked in 11 different countries: London, France, Spain, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, to name a few. While I was in Barcelona I worked with someone who referred me to the job in Bali. As much as I wanted to stay and work with the KO team then, Director of Culinary for W Bali was an opportunity I could not pass up. On top of that both of my kids were born when I was abroad. Avery was born in Bangkok and Gavin was born in Bali. It was a family adventure.
- What are you most proud about professionally? I am proud of the people that I have worked with. In Bali, we started a program that helped to promote farming locally and built a sustainable infrastructure for local produce. It is still happening. Whenever I approach a job, I work so as to leave it having made it better than it was before I was there. I feel proud that I have been able to do this in my career.
- What are you most proud of personally? My family. My wife and kids. They make life real. My family is the most important thing in the world to me. I am so proud of them.
- Do you have any advice or words of wisdom you would like to share? Patience is key. You have to be patient to find success. Also when I approach anything I ask myself, “is this the best thing for the restaurant?” If the answer is not a resounding “yes,” don’t do it. This has helped me tremendously as it provides a very small filter to vet anything. I do the same for my family. I am always asking myself, “is this the best thing for my family?” They are amazing and the same goes for my restaurant family; only the best.