Introduction The ability to recall a taste sensation, which I think of as "taste memory," is a God-given talent, akin to perfect pitch, which makes your life richer if you possess it. If you aren't born with it, you can never seem to acquire it....And naturally good chefs and cooks must depend upon memory when they season or when they are combining subtle flavors to create a new sauce or dish. -- James Beard, Delights and Prejudices (1964) How does one become a Super Chef? First, James Beard advised, one needs "taste memory." Such memory starts in childhood. Wolfgang Puck's mother was a pastry chef. Charlie Palmer learned to cook in high school. Todd English claims his Italian grandmother inspired him. Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger both credit their mothers for sparking their appreciation. Tom Colicchio grew up in a Neapolitan family in New Jersey who treated meals as an integral part of family ritual and even had an uncle who sold fresh vegetables.Some chefs study formally at organized schools; others pass on school and simply work. Tom Colicchio never "studied" -- other than read, re-read, and then read again Jacques Pepin's La Technique while he apprenticed. Wolfgang Puck won an Austrian national culinary championship after only three years of gastronomical studies at the technical school in Villach, where he started at the age of 14. Todd English graduated from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at the top end of his class. Charlie Palmer and Susan Feniger are also CIA graduates; Mary Sue Milliken graduated from Washburne Culinary Institute in Chicago.Schooling only helps prepare for placement; apprenticeship is the most important part not only of learning but also of becoming recognized and of advancing. With the Austrian national prize in his pocket, Wolfgang Puck worked for six years in France before becoming an executive chef in Indianapolis, and he worked in a undistinguished downtown Los Angeles restaurant before getting his big break from Patrick Terrail at Ma Maison. Fresh from the CIA, Charlie Palmer landed a full-time job at La Cote Basque but also took on unpaid work off-hours at La Petite Marmite and La Chantilly before he got his break at the River Cafe. Both Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger worked at Le Perroquet in Chicago after they finished school, and both apprenticed in France (L'Olympe and L'Oasis, separately) before launching their partnership at City Cafe.When a cook has proven him- or herself at every station in the kitchen, knows each step of preparation for every dish on the menu, and can produce every dish perfectly and repeatedly, that cook can become a sous chef ("under chef") and eventually a chef. A chef who shows talent for the creation of new sauces and dishes -- a signature -- has become a great chef. Typically, such great chefs work for others (a restaurateur or another chef) and then open their own restaurant. Opening up a restaurant is no light matter. Describing their move from the eleven-table City Cafe to their own 5,000-square-foot City Restaurant in Los Angeles in 1984, Mary Sue Milliken confessed: We didn't know much about business at all, and that's one of the real stumbling blocks for chefs. You know, you're really focused on Food, you're really, really passionate -- -- and then there's never a good time, added Susan Feniger, and no one really likes it that much -- -- for learning about business and all the things that go hand-in-hand with business: how to run it, the ups and downs, how to imagine the future, how to control costs, how to increase sales, none of that. Managing not one but many restaurants in more than one geographic location is just where becoming a Super Chef first becomes a distant glimmer. To take that quantum leap, a chef must show aptitude for other professions, suRossant, Juliette is the author of 'Super Chef The Making of the Great Modern Restaurant Empires', published 2004 under ISBN 9780743241717 and ISBN 0743241711.