Meet Our Chefs: Damon Payne

Our L’Ecole Culinaire campuses have the good fortune of attracting impressive talent in our chef-instructors. We will periodically be profiling different chefs in our blog posts. Today, we are focusing on Chef Damon Payne at our L’Ecole Culinaire campus in St. Louis.


Chef Payne began his culinary career almost 20 years ago with an apprenticeship at The Racquet Club. Over time, Chef Payne worked his way through the ranks and eventually earned the title of Executive Sous Chef. With his growing resume, Chef Payne was able to expand his culinary horizons to work in New York at Aquavit alongside the award-winning and nationally-recognized Chef Marcus Samuelsson. Additionally, Chef Payne worked with Chef Gary Kunz, a Restaurant Hall of Fame inductee, during his tenure at Lespinnase at The St. Regis—New York.

Chef Payne has earned multiple recognitions throughout his career beginning in 1991 with the American Culinary Federation Certification of Recognition he earned while assisting with the Missouri Seafood Challenge in St. Louis. Chef Payne went on to be recognized through The American Culinary Federation in 1992 with a silver medal for Best of Food Show in St. Louis, in 1994 with a bronze medal in the ACF’s Junior Cold Food Challenge in St. Louis, and in 1995 with an ACF silver medal in the Hot Food Competition in New Orleans.

Currently, Chef Payne is a St. Louis Chef de Cuisine Junior Member and a member of the American Culinary Federation. He is also being featured in a segment of Shopping Like A Chef on KSDK, Channel 5 television in St. Louis. We will post a link on our FACEBOOK page when the segment airs.

See our own Chef Payne shop for ingredients and prepare a dish from our upcoming early Valentines Day menu!


2011   Certificate from Washington University mini med class

1996   A.C.F. Graduated Apprentice

Goat Cheese Filling for Ravioli

Recipe By: Darren Zesch, CEC

8 oz. Fresh Goat Cheese, Softened
1 each Whole Egg
1 teaspoon Lemon Zest, finely grated
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley, Chopped
1 Tablespoon Parmesan Cheese, Grated


1. Place goat cheese into bowl and mix on low speed till smooth and creamy, about 1 minute.

2. Place egg, lemon zest, black pepper, chopped parsley, and Parmesan cheese into bowl and
continue to mix until all ingredients are mixed thoroughly. If mixture is too thick, thin with
cream to desired consistency.

3. Cheese mixture is now ready for making raviolis.

Pasta Dough Recipe

Recipe By: Darren Zesch, CEC

3 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour, Sifted
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
As Needed, Water


1. Combine the flour and salt on a work surface and make a well in the center. Place the
eggs, olive oil and water in the well. Working as rapidly as possible, gradually pull the flour
into the liquid ingredients and stir until a loose mass forms. As the dough is mixed, adjust
the consistency with water or flour. (Dough can be made in an electric mixer)

2. Kneed the dough on a floured work surface until the texture becomes smooth and
elastic. Gather and smooth the kneaded dough into a ball, cover and let the relax at room
temperature for 20 minutes.

3. Roll the pasta dough into thin sheets and cut into desired shapes by hand or using a
pasta machine.

What is a culinary specialist?


A new job title has been emerging in recent years in the culinary field: culinary specialist. Originally a term reserved for Navy and military culinary supervisors, the broader culinary world has adopted this title as well. Culinary job seekers may be wondering, what does it mean?

A culinary specialist typically has attended an accredited culinary school, has experience in the industry and is prepared to lead a culinary team. In many respects, the position mirrors that of an executive or head chef in the food and beverage industry. However, a culinary specialist not only oversees menu development, budgeting and supplies, vendor relationships, staff, cooks, equipment maintenance and repairs, but also manages front of the house operations. Banquet and event negotiation are also part of this work.

Wondering if this career would work for you? The Holland Code Chart, a tool for making vocational choices based on personality types, indicates that this filed is best suited for those with a strong balance of enterprising and realistic traits as well as being social, artistic and conventional. You can find a sample of the test here.


L’Ecole Culinaire can be an important first step in training for this career. Our restaurant management degree allows students to receive training in the front of the house and the back of the house, an enriched platform for a culinary career. Our graduates emerge ready to take on the challenges of the industry. Click the link to hear what our graduates have to say about their experience at L’Ecole Culinaire. An American Culinary Federation Educational Foundation accredited culinary school, L’Ecole Culinaire offers hands-on training in culinary management from experienced industry professionals.

Interested in training to become a culinary specialist? You can complete your diploma or degree in culinary arts at L’Ecole Culinaire in less time than you might think. With the New Year upon us, now is a great time to register for classes starting soon. We have campus locations in Kansas City, Memphis and St. Louis and would enjoy showing you our kitchens and introducing you to our chef instructors. For more information on starting a career in the culinary world, click here to submit your request for information.




How to Master French Cooking: 4 Key Ingredients


There is an old story, attributed to master violinist Jascha Heifetz, where a man on the street in New York City asked him how to get to Carnegie Hall. Without missing a beat, Heifetz replied, “Practice.” Those who have mastered French cooking will often say that while they have mastered the sauces and methodology, it is an ongoing process of practice. If you have seen the 2009 film, Julie and Julia, or tried your hand at Childs 1961 cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, you know that this cooking style requires practice, patience, attention to detail, timing and intuition.

You may wonder how the French came to lead western cuisine. Prior to the 15th century, French royals ate in service de confusion, where all the food was served at once. Meals consisted largely or smoked or salted meats. When Florentine Catherine de Medici arrived to marry Henry II of France she changed the culinary landscape with the presence of her personal chefs and manners at table.

Three French chefs are largely responsible for the evolution of French cuisine as we know it today: La Varenne, Marie- Antoine Careme and George Auguste Escoffier. One chef is responsible for making French cuisine accessible to the American masses: Julia Child. Interested in trying in trying one of her recipes? A good start might be her recipe for beef bourguignon.


While it is challenging to reduce such a broad cuisine to essential elements, L’Ecole Culinaire – Kansas City Program Director Chef Patrick Parmentier, himself a French Chef, shared what he considers the four key ingredients to fine French cooking. “Herbs de Provence, aromatic mirepoix, quatre epices and wine are central to many French dishes,” shared Chef Parmentier. Training alongside seasoned, professional chef instructors is an ideal way to study the nuances of this cuisine. Training in French cooking at L’Ecole provides the essential tools for mastery.

We are fortunate to have seasoned professionals teaching at L’Ecole who have trained in the Escoffier brigade system. An American Culinary Federation Educational Foundation accredited culinary school, L’Ecole Culinaire offers hands-on training in French cuisine from industry experienced professionals.

Interested in French cuisine? You can complete your study of French and other cooking techniques at L’Ecole Culinaire in less time than you might think. With the New Year upon us, now is a great time to register for classes starting in January. We have campus locations in Kansas City, Memphis and St. Louis and would enjoy showing you our international kitchens. For more information on starting a career in the culinary world, click here to submit your request for information.


High class cooking technique




Train for a New Culinary Arts Career in 2015

Chef Pepin 005


Experts tell us that, in our working lives, we may have as many as eight careers. Life often takes us in unanticipated directions before we realize that we may not be doing what we truly enjoy. Think for a moment of what you would enjoy doing for forty hours a week. Is that how you are investing your time?

With the New Year, we have the opportunity to rethink where we are and where we would like to be in the coming year. If you have always loved cooking, have you considered a career in the culinary arts?

Training at L’Ecole Culinaire offers hands-on experience from the first day of class. Our industry experienced chef-instructors meet their students at their individual ability levels, capitalizing on individual talents. Every day, students enjoy new culinary experiences learning knife skills, baking, pastry, appetizers, international cuisine, grilling and a myriad of other areas of training.

As a campus fully focused on culinary, students enjoy learning beside others who share their commitment to the field. Some students have culinary experience while others are new to the profession. Whatever the experience level, everyone shares in the excitement of learning and creating something new in every class. This shared bond leads graduates of L’Ecole Culinaire to often keep in touch with instructors.

Chef Elizabeth Schuster, owner of Tenacious Eats says she calls on former instructors for advice and with culinary questions. Chef Schuster shares her testimonial.

Chef Austin Packard, who works at The Chase, used his experience at L’Ecole to focus on his dream of becoming an executive chef. He earned this position in just four years after graduating from L’Ecole. Learn more about Chef Packard in his testimonial.

L’Ecole Culinaire also provides enriching opportunities for students to learn catering by participating in special events and everyone gains real-world, hands-on experience by working in the on-site restaurant, The Presentation Room. Training is completed with an externship at a local culinary establishment. It is this well-rounded training that readies graduates for success in many areas of the field.

Is it time for you to follow your dream of a career in the culinary world? If so, feel free to visit one of our campuses in Kansas City, Memphis or St. Louis. We are enrolling now for classes starting in January.