“I used to work on everything from chocolate soufflés to stir frys to butchered meat,” Hara said. “There was something about finding a new taste or recipe that I loved.”
Hara regularly watched Emeril Lagasse on television and as quick as you could say “Bam!” he enrolled in culinary school at Santa Barbara City College’s School of Culinary Arts.
“I was good at cooking, so I ended up at culinary school,” he said. “I always watched Emeril on television and loved trying what he was doing in my own kitchen. I went straight to culinary school without ever having worked in a restaurant.”
His first job after graduating was working under Chef Michel Richard at Citronelle.
“I learned the fundamentals and the discipline of the kitchen,” he said. “It was great, especially for a young, aspiring chef. He is a brilliant chef and very creative, too.”
Hara went on to work under John Downey at Downey’s, Camille Schwartz at Restaurant Mimosa and at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Canada. At the age of 26, Hara arrived in New York and took the executive chef position at Chez Josephine. He then joined David Burke as chef de cuisine at davidburke & donatella.
Today, Hara heads up the kitchen at The Oak Room in Manhattan and is living up to the reputation that earned him a Rising Chef Star in 2007.
“I’ve never considered anything else and I love what I do,” he said. “I like to use the best ingredients and keep the food really clean and pristine. I like to really taste the natural flavor of the ingredients; the sauce, the fish, all of it.”