Making food into a science

Senior discovers cooking passion

“To the Pass!” shouts the head chef the Mercantile restaurant in Denver.

There are flashes of heat everywhere. The Sous Chefs all respond in unison, calling out, “Yes, Chef!” in response, and subsequently return to their tasks, double-time.

A boy in the back of the kitchen hears his name called. The chef needs him to step up to the plate, so to speak. For two days, he is called upon to manage a stage, the task of preparing assorted areas of the kitchen for the rest of the staff. He watches as a culinary ballet plays out in front of him.

Fire flashes before his eyes, pans clatter against stovetops, and before he knows it, Ryan Albin ‘20 witnesses the heat and sweat and the yelling of the kitchen crescendo into finished plates, one by one.

“Service!” shouts the head chef, the callout signifying the completion of a set of plates. 

The front of house staff steps forward, gathering the finalized dishes and bringing them out of the heat and fervor into the kitchen and into the dining room, full of fervent and excited diners. As they cross the threshold separating the kitchen and the dining area, a cool breeze blasts through the door for a brief moment, wafting in the smells and the sounds of the other side. 

As the kitchen door closes, the air returns to one of heat and productivity. The effort the entire kitchen staff–and Albin– put in is almost tangible. 

As he prepares assorted ingredients, Albin, recalls why he got into cooking in the first place. “Every day, I’d see my mother prep these dishes. It’s all this science, all this preparation. I thought, ‘This is something I really want to go into.’”

And one year later, here he is, preparing ingredients at an award-winning restaurant downtown. 

He inherently believes that “I’m telling a story. I’m saying something on a plate that represents something.” Ultimately, this is the same hope or belief that drives any artist to create. The hope that they can communicate whatever’s inside their head through whatever it is they create.