Young, passionate chef embraces challengesJune 25, 2019
By RILEY GUERZINI
The best part of Mason Herzog’s job is really getting to know the people he works with and teaching them how to perfect their craft.
Herzog, 21, works at the garde manger kitchen in the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee. A garde manger kitchen prepares and stores cold dishes.
The Jasper native started working as a cook at the Gaylord Opryland over a year ago after interning at Marriott International’s The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
Herzog studied culinary arts at Sullivan University in Kentucky after graduating from Jasper High School in 2016. He was placed in the internship after graduating with an associate degree.
It was a cooking class he enrolled in his senior year of high school where Herzog found he wanted to go to Sullivan.
While attending Sullivan, he took a number of classes, such as basic knife and chopping skills, and advanced food preparation skills.
“It was like an episode of Chopped,” he said of one of the classes. “They would give you three random ingredients and then have you make a dish from that.”
After taking an international cooking class where he prepared cuisines from around the world, Herzog began to appreciate the impact culinary arts has on the world.
“You really get to understand people through food,” he said.
He is currently a lead supervisor at the garde manger kitchen, managing anywhere from 12 to 15 people. Along with supervising production and managing quality control, he must prepare his kitchen to cook for anywhere from 5 to 5,000 diners on a given night.
His role differs from the head chef, who is responsible for bringing in the customers and explaining the menu to them.
He said he prefers cooking for large scale to a traditional food line.
“The difference is you never know how busy it is going to be when you are working on the line,” Herzog said. “When you cook for a set number of people, everything is a lot more organized and it is easier to get everything prepared.”
A typical day for Herzog begins at 1 p.m. when he and his team prepare food for the next day. Since they work with cold food, Herzog said, they can prep it the day before. He also finishes preparing any food that needs to be finished from the day before.
He works with another supervisor to assign tasks to his subordinates based on what they are qualified to do.
Herzog is the youngest lead supervisor out of 80 throughout the hotel. He supervises people twice his age but said he can’t show intimidation or he won’t survive in the industry.
“You have to be strong and stern,” he said. “No one will listen to you or take directions from you if you’re not.”
He finishes his day by overseeing the dinner party they are serving that night with one main goal in mind: Don’t run out of food.
Herzog cooks at home when he gets off work but said it is usually nothing special. He enjoys his work at the Gaylord Opryland and prefers making a simple meal to end his day.
He started cooking at a young age with his grandma. He said she was the person who really got him into the profession.
“I remember when I was younger waking up at my Grandma’s and making pancakes together,” he said. “I would always work on trying to make the recipes better.”
He got his first culinary job at 14 when he was hired as a grill cook at Azura Grill & Cafe in Jasper. He has worked in seven different restaurants since.
He returns to Jasper every other holiday but has found it to be more difficult since his promotion. When he does, he cooks for his parents, Kim and Dan Herzog, and his sister, Summer, 19.
Mason’s mentor is Japanese sous chef Kazuhira Hishida, who has pushed Mason’s culinary skills to a new level.
“I have never met someone more talented in the kitchen,” he said of Hishida, who is also his boss. “He has really helped me perfect all different types of cuisine.”
His favorite part about being in the kitchen is what some might expect: the food. He enjoys the intricacies of cooking barbecue, especially steak, his favorite item to cook, and the diversity that comes with creating a meal.
“I love tasting new experiences,” he said. “Cooking is just a fun hobby for me. I don’t even think about that I’m going in to do it as a job every day.”
Mason would like to stay within Marriott International, which owns the Gaylord Opryland, and he hopes to move up within the company. His goal is to become a sous chef within the next two years.
“I still have a long way to go,” he said. “But I am looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead.”
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