What's NOT on My Resume: Joe Dobias

By Kathleen Squires  |  January 16, 2014

No one starts out on top, especially in the food business. In this weekly column, chefs and restaurateurs across the country share the stories of their humble beginnings.

He’s the chef/owner of the NYC mom-and-pop eatery Joe & Misses Doe, but Joe Dobias also makes a mean sandwich at his shop JoeDough. There’s a reason that the chef is so skilled with between-the-bread creations: he was once a Subway sandwich “artist.” “I was 15 or 16 years old and I was working at the busiest Subway in the northeast, in Long Island," he recalls. "And yes, on the shirt itself it did not say my name. It said subway sandwich ‘artist’ instead.” But Dobias says, “There was nothing at all artistic about it. It was more about the science of speed and precision of portioning, which in all honesty, does teach you how to work in a professional kitchen. The organization and prep work are done to the nth degree because the cost margins are so, so, so, so small that even a shred of lettuce out of place is money in the garbage.”

Dobias goes on to explain that the principals of efficiency and reducing waste can be applied in any kitchen, even high-end ones. “Working in a Subway is more relevant to working in a real restaurant than, say, staging at the number one restaurant in the world. That experience is irrelevant to running 95% of the kitchens in the world.” Even in what he calls the “carpeted kitchens” of celebrity-chef restaurants, Dobias points out the Subway model is used. “Many have the same formula as Subway,” Dobias says. “It is kind of a funny irony of the fine dining and celebrity chef world - some of them lambaste productivity or centralization or mass market food and they turn around and open six restaurants in as many years. Then they open a 75,000 square foot commissary kitchen, and bread and desserts are being made in one spot instead of having a pastry chef in all of them. Think about it: In essence, now you are just a big Subway.”