Recipe for success

Things have been going well for me over the last year. Poker has been going well, but I've also had a great time pursuing a course in culinary studies which included an internship in a restaurant.

I first started to explore getting involved in culinary studies about a year ago. It was a time when I realized I still enjoyed poker a lot, but I really needed to do something else, too, in order to provide some balance in my life. I wanted to learn some new skills while also experiencing a different environment. Otherwise, I'd surely get tired of poker.

I had always enjoyed cooking. I remembered living in London with other poker players and cooking for them a lot, which was always fun. So it seemed like a next logical step to pursue that interest a little further.


Sebastian Ruthenberg after winning EPT Barcelona in 2008

I ended up completing a six-month course at a college in Switzerland. Half of it covered practical cooking techniques while the other half involved learning theory about restaurant management. I met so many cool, interesting people while I was there. After eight years or so of being totally immersed in poker, it was refreshing, too, to experience a little "normal" life.

Of course, it was hard waking up at 7 a.m. every morning. That's a part of "normal" life I don't think I'll ever get used to!

Following that half-year, I then spent three months working as the entremetier at a restaurant in Zurich, Switzerland called Münsterhof. The entremetier handles side dishes such as vegetables, soups, eggs, and so on.

It was very satisfying to finally cook for people and put what I had been learning into practice. One of my main motivations for starting this other career in cooking was to make other people happy, and food is a great way to do just that. We worked very long days -- usually 11-15 hours -- but in the end it doesn't matter how long or exhausting a job is if you really like what you're doing.

It was a little like poker in that respect, insofar as, like a lot of players, I can play for long sessions and enjoy it enough for it not to seem like work. Of course, one big difference is that while I was making other people happy while cooking -- which also made me happy -- in poker my happiness usually involves making other people unhappy (and vice-versa).

Cooking is also like poker in that a lot of it has to with understanding the basics and being able to apply that knowledge to certain situations over and over, developing a routine that helps improve your chances of being successful.

For instance, in cooking there are certain basics like understanding a particular lamb leg is a tough cut and thus needs to be cooked longer, or knowing what "blanching" is, or knowing how certain vegetables need more salt than others. Understanding these things would be like knowing instinctively that it's better to play fewer hands from early position than from late position in poker. If you lack an understanding of the basics in both cooking and poker, you will have inconsistent results.

As you can tell, I'm still very excited about my studies, which have been very "nourishing" for me, you might say. I know some other poker players have been getting into culinary studies, too, but it will never become the new poker. It's too exhausting!

Sebastian Ruthenberg is a Team PokerStars Pro and EPT winner.