MORE STUFF! Empellón's Alex Stupak Ponders Fear

Fearlessness isn't a thing. Not in this business.

October 20, 2015 ● 2 min read

[MORE STUFF! is home to all the little nuggets we stuffed in our pockets months or weeks or days ago because we liked the way they read, or looked, or sounded. It's kinda like finding a $20 bill in the pocket of a jacket you haven’t worn since last winter.]  

Honestly, I’m far more driven by fear. What’s more important is to recognize fear as a boundary, or as something that you need to push through in order to expand yourself.  

I think in life in general, there’s a worry…how do I describe it? When things are working, there’s a temptation to do nothing. To change life in any meaningful way is to push against that.  

[Opening Empellón] was the most logical progression I could make. I knew a lot of people didn’t, or wouldn’t, or still don’t get it. It’s difficult, because no one knew or cared who I was before. No one even cared about who I was as a pastry chef until I left Alinea and went to WD-50. Until that moment, very few people even knew who I was. Ironically, I fell into pastry completely by accident. I just ended up sticking with it. I started off cooking savory. Now the Mexican thing came out of nowhere because I was kind of keeping it to myself. I had been thinking of this thing for years.  

Sooner or later, you have to make a jump. Or, not. You don’t have to do anything. For me, I had always had it in my head that I would have my own restaurant someday. The idea of manufacturing one around pastry never seemed logical. I wanted to be involved in everything, in all aspects of it.  

I can tell you that going into it, I had no idea what the hell I was doing. You meet with everyone you can think of that’s done it, you ask a million questions, you do a ton of research. The only one truth you keep arriving at is that everyone who’s made this leap, it all happened in a different way. There’s no textbook way to get it done. There just isn’t.  

The line between mediocre cooking and good cooking and great cooking is the conviction of the person, and how hard they’re willing to try. Successful people, great people, do the things other people don’t feel like doing.

As told to Cassandra Landry