From PhilaU to ABC’s Newest Cooking Show: Q&A with ‘The Taste’ Chef Micah Kasman

Competitor, Micah Kasman, during ‘The Taste,’ televised on Tuesday, January 22, 2012. (ABC/SASHA SHEMIRANI) © 2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

Micah Kasman ’03 believes in taking risks.

As an award-winning designer, Kasman has worked for and with companies such as Facebook, Monterey Bay Aquarium and Philadelphia Museum of Art. Over the past two years as design director at Joie de Vivre Hospitality, Kasman led the design work for the corporate rebranding and property launches of 12 hotels, restaurants and spas.

After graduating from Philadelphia University’s graphic design communication program, Kasman moved to San Francisco, where he currently lives with his wife Rosslyn. The couple will soon celebrate their second anniversary. Yet, despite his impressive resume and steady paycheck, Kasman quit his design job to appear on ABC’s new cooking contest show “The Taste” (airing Tuesdays at 8 p.m.).

A largely self-taught chef, Kasman says his design education and aesthetic influences his work in the kitchen. “The visual aspect of food gives a preconception of how it will taste,” Kasman says. “The key to a great experience is to combine gorgeous presentation with bold delicious flavors.”

Currently planning to pursue his passions for both food and design, Kasman hopes to use the “The Taste” as an opportunity to try something new and see where it takes him. “I believe that when you take big risks, life presents you with rewards.”

Kasman recently answered questions about his appearance on “The Taste,” how design influences his cooking and his plans for his future career.

Q: How did you first hear about “The Taste” and why did you want to be on the show?

I first heard about “The Taste” through a casting call note that made its way into my email inbox. When I saw the information, my competitive side took over and I just knew that I needed to see how the skills I’ve been working on stacked up against the competition of amateur home cooks and pro chefs. The show was an opportunity for me to try new things in life, put myself out there in the world and follow my passions.

Q: How did it feel to be selected as one of the initial contestants?

While I was in the “hatch” watching the mentors taste my audition spoon, my mind was spinning out of control–I had just left a corporate job as a design director and was taking a leap of faith that things would work out. Regardless of the outcome, I had just cooked for and was standing in front of four highly esteemed culinary experts from around the world, I mean Anthony Bourdain was tasting my dish! As Chef Malarkey gave me a greenlight, I was ready to fall to the floor in exhaustion. Instead a huge surge of energy went through me and with the excitement knowing that the support of my wife, family and friends had just come to fruition, I was ready to take on the challenges that were ahead.

Q: Your background is in graphic design. When did you start to learn how to cook? Has that always been an interest of yours?

I grew up baking in the kitchen with my mom, but started cooking savory food about three years ago and the passion grew very quickly. When I moved from the east coast to California, I was inspired by my first farmers market visit. The incredible amount of fresh produce and artisan products opened up my eyes and taste buds to flavors I had never experienced before.

Living in such a diverse city as San Francisco, I continued to try cuisines from around the world and began to realize that I could recreate these dishes as well as create my own spin on classics. My wife had arranged a “basics” cooking class session as a birthday gift and the knowledge I learned through that class gave me the tools to feel more confident in the kitchen.

Q: Do you see any similarities between cooking and your design work?

My cooking interest only started a few years ago, but I see a strong correlation between cooking and design. The process for both cooking and design involves high level creative thinking, patience and a strong eye for detail. Whether I’m choosing a typeface for a brand identity or selecting produce for a dish, the level of detail is crucial. It’s all about the final product but each point along the way is just as important as the end result.

Q: Did you do any cooking while you were at Philadelphia University? In what ways do you think PhilaU helped you in your career, whether design or culinary?

While at Philadelphia University, the extent of my cooking was heating up ramen noodles, toasting a bagel with cream cheese and peeling a banana. As you can see, in a short period of time, I’ve recently followed a newfound passion.

I’ve been fortunate to work with some amazing companies and incredible clients. Philadelphia University’s design program prepared me more than I could understand at the time. The mix of the curriculum—introducing business courses as well as design courses—set me up to be a strategic business owner in addition to a strong designer.

Q: You have your own design firm, Kasman Design. It seems you are comfortable setting out on your own. What do you hope to accomplish through appearing on “The Taste,” and do you hope to turn your culinary passions into more of a full-time occupation?

As I mentioned on the show, I did have to leave my full time design director position to appear on “The Taste,” but the experience was incredible and well worth it. Over the last 10 years, I’ve been running incarnations of Kasman Design both part-time and full-time.

The decision to appear on “The Taste” has given me the opportunity to redefine my future client work with Kasman Design as well as build a new career toward my culinary passions, whether it through design for restaurants and food products, consultation on plating/presentation, food photography art direction, hosting pop-up food events or offering individualized private chef experiences. The possibilities are endless, and I’m open to all the opportunities that come my way.

Looking back, every momentous occasion of my life has been followed by the philosophy that you need to take risks in order to receive reward and being on the show is just one step forward on that continued path.

Q: Last question, what is it like seeing yourself on a major network TV show?

It is eye opening and also incredible—you can’t take yourself too seriously and you just have to have fun with it. The whole thing is less about seeing myself on TV, and more about the experience of putting myself out there, sharing my passions with the world and opening new doors of opportunity.

My wife has been incredibly supportive throughout the entire process and my family and friends have been rooting for me all along—especially since they’ve all been able to sample dishes over the last few years while I’ve honed my skills.

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