Student Snapshot: Sam Zeitlin

By By Maddy Flax

While the beginning of the year brings the stress of college applications and AP classes to most seniors, Sam Zeitlin is more concerned with the seasoning on the next dish he will serve at Redwood Restaurant.
Zeitlin has been working at the Bethesda restaurant for the past year. He fell in love with cooking during his sophomore year when he began preparing dinner for his family in order to de-stress from school.
“School started getting really tough, so instead of coming home to stress out over math problems or reading, I focused on making dinner for my family,” Zeitlin said. “I would turn on the Food Network and see all these happy people cooking on television and I began to think about one day having my own show on Food Network or my own restaurant.”
As Zeitlin became more immersed in his cooking, he began to realize that not only did it relieve him of daily stresses, but it was a true passion he wanted to pursue.
“Sam is such a talented cook,” Sam’s brother, junior Hal Zeitlin said. “I used to think that the guys on Food Network were the best chefs, but I think he’s just as good as them.”
After cooking for his family for a while, Zeitlin decided to take his newfound passion out into the world. He applied for a job at Redwood initially, where he was hired as a line cook. Although he loves his job, Sam sometimes finds it hard to balance work with his social life and school.
“Working can be very stressful. I don’t see my friends as much as I want to, and in the summer, I basically worked [anywhere from] six to nine hours every day I was home,” Zeitlin said. “Now that the school year has started, I work from 2:45 p.m. to late at night on Fridays and I open up the restaurant at nine a.m. and leave at six p.m. on Saturdays.”
Despite the time commitment, Zeitlin enjoys the daily challenges. He loves learning new things, and has found that he feels right at home among the other chefs.
“I get really good, hands-on experience working with a very good chef, sous chef and skilled line cooks,” Zeitlin said. “They answer all my questions and show me how to do all of the things I am unsure about, and I really consider them my close family outside of my own.”
As for the future, Zeitlin plans to open his own restaurant, but first wants to attend the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), which is ranked the top culinary college in the world. At CIA, Sam would spend his first few weeks in a lecture hall, learning from a professor, and then transfer into the kitchen, where he would learn about many different types of cuisine. He would have to complete an 18-to 22-week internship at any restaurant in the country after his first year. The internship would be followed by more learning in the kitchen until he graduates.
“When you’re hungry and can create a meal by yourself, you really feel connected to your creation and you have a real sense of accomplishment,” Zeitlin said.