Daniela Soto-Innes on Being a Young Boss

James Beard winning chef Daniela Soto-Innes is known for heading the kitchen at famed restaurant Cosme. Named ‘Restaurant of the Year’ by Eater and receiving 3 stars from the New York Times, the restaurant has proven itself to be one of the best.

But one thing you may not know about this award-winning chef is that she is only 27... and she won her James Beard at 25.

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Her secret: Daniela began working in kitchens at 14– lying about her age until she helped open Cosme at 23.

So what does the life of a millennial success story look like? The Cut reports:

On her morning routine:
“I wake up around 7 or 8 a.m., and I do some kind of workout, whether running or cycling or yoga. After that, I go to work, and I kiss everyone on the cheek right when I come in to both of the restaurants. At Cosme I’m like the psychologist. Everybody wants to talk to me and tell me what happened while I was away, tell me which ovens broke. I always do service at Cosme at night. But that’s it, that’s all I do. It passes by very fast. I wish there were five more hours between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.”

On hiding her age:
I started in a real kitchen when I was 14. The whole time I’ve lied about my age, until I got to Cosme — and then I only lied for the first three months. I quickly realized it’s an advantage to be young in such a high position; it pushes people to be better.

On managing people older than her:
My sous-chefs are older than me, all of them, but some of the cooks are younger. We are all treated with respect. They call me “chef.” I know what I’m capable of, not in terms of age but with the experience I’ve been through. The way I manage is, I get them to focus not on how young I am but how much I’ve learned and how much I can give to them. I try to be humble, because they can see right through me. They know when I don’t know.

On the true meaning of accolades:
They get people in the door of the restaurant. It’s a magnet for talent — people are excited to eat here, and to work here. Personally, if you can go back to the tape of the James Beard awards, I was so shy. I had nothing prepared. I didn’t campaign for this, it just happened. Now we have expectations, and that’s the stress. We are competing with restaurants that have been around 30 years. I do it for the cooks. I want them to be happy to work here. How do I keep my cooks happy and motivated? Everyone keeps their James Beard awards at the bar, or near the door of the restaurant, but mine is at home with my books.

Read more about Daniela’s life as a young boss at The Cut.