LENTS WM ONLINE COVER

Thomas Lents’ Culinary Craftsmanship

Philosophy-major-turned Michelin two-star rated Chef Thomas Lents ’95 tells stories with his culinary creations.

“You’re never going to get me to say I’m an artist, because I don’t think I am,” Thomas Lents ’95 says of his work at Sixteen restaurant in Chicago’s Trump Tower. “But we are capable of elevating the craft past just having dinner.”

Photographer John Konstantaras captured that craftmanship with his lens and Wabash Digital Media Director Howard Hewitt provides the text in this photo album of the feast they enjoyed at Sixteen. And you can read Hewitt’s profile of Lents beginning on page 20 of the latest issue of Wabash Magazine.

And although Lents has found his calling in the kitchen, he told Hewitt that would-be chefs should think twice about attending culinary school:

So You Want to Be a Chef?

Interested in pursuing culinary school? Chef Thomas Lents offers strong words of caution:

“Be careful of culinary school—its’ a lot of money. And to be perfectly honest, this industry, especially at the beginning, does not pay well. I’ve been very fortunate and it took me a long time to get to the position I’m in. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years. I’ve seen a lot of people who don’t make it. I’ve seen a lot of cooks and chefs strangled with financial debt from culinary school.

“If you’re really interested in it, go cook. Go work in a professional kitchen for a couple years and make sure it’s for you. Don’t go to culinary school without having seen what the life is actually like. It’s not easy. It’s not even the physical labor of it that’s difficult, it’s the fact you work when everyone else plays.

“You’re never going to have Valentine’s Day off, you’re never going to have New Year’s Eve off, and it’s always going to be very difficult to get any time around the holidays off. You’re going to slowly drift away from those 9-to-5 friends you have. You have to be ready for that and willing to do that. Your partner needs to be willing to have somebody that does this. It’s not for everybody.

“You go and spend $60,000, $70,000 or $80,000 on a culinary education and then you just know how to cook at dinner parties. It’s a costly mistake that a lot of people make.”