Tech Talent: This Former Pop-Up Chef Is Cooking Up Some New Coding Skills

Andrew Bantug

Chef Andrew Bantug knows the struggles of a small business. His Filipino pop-up style restaurant, held last year, had all the the hustle, demand and finance-crunching stresses of startup life.

Now, he sees that same challenge echoed in technology as he makes the transition into programming through General Assembly‘s Web Development Immersive program. “I’m someone who loves to create experiences for people that enrich their lives. I did that with cooking, and now I’m going to do it with technology,” says Bantug.

Check out Bantug’s credentials as he looks for the right mid-size company to invite him to join their team, and learn why he’d rather be a master in one language versus a jack-of-all-trades.

What is your previous education?

I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 2008. I built my career as a chef over the next 8-9 years.

Why the interest in the technology field?

I began writing code more out of curiosity than passion, but as I learned and started to build apps, that quickly changed. When I tell people I used to be a chef and now I’m a web developer, they always say that it’s such a dramatic change. And while they’re right, I also see some similarities that explain why I love writing code. One way to describe a chef’s job is to take raw ingredients and apply different techniques to prepare them and make them edible; then to take these prepared ingredients and combine them into dishes. And then, to take these dishes and combine them to make a menu; and build a team to make these dishes and create an experience for a party of diners.

I think code similarly starts at this raw ingredient level and builds and builds, all for the intent of creating a great experience for someone.

What tech projects have you worked on?

I’ve built and continue to maintain a couple of full-stack applications by myself. I like to tinker and build apps with new technologies, so these apps are more playgrounds that I’ve built for myself. I call the first ‘App React Planner’. It’s actually the first app I built with React and it’s designed to help plan and provide a visual representation of component trees. It was kind of a weird dynamic building a planning tool for a technology that was completely new to me at the time, but I’m glad I did it; it really helped me learn React well. I’m going to continue working on it and hopefully, it can help someone someday.

My other app is for data visualization of NBA stats. Before getting into web development, I was considering going down the data science path. Giving meaning to statistics is something that I’ve always been interested in. I took this opportunity to teach myself D3.js and GraphQL. D3 is a really powerful API that draws all sorts of charts and tables, so I’ve been wanting to learn it for a while. And GraphQL is a newer query language. Without going too deep, it’s really efficient and flexible. If you haven’t looked into it, you should!

What tech/tools are essential to you as a developer?

Honestly, just a solid pair of headphones. Drowning out the rest of the world with music is the fastest way for me to slip into the zone when I’m feeling distracted/unfocused. Also, it’s  the non-tech things that have become essentials for me. Taking a walk to get some sun and clear my mind when I’m hitting a wall, or practicing some yoga/meditation when I wake up to get ready for my day.

How do you stay informed of emerging trends?

Mainly, I listen to podcasts. I like JavaScript Jabber and Syntax. I also try to stay up-to-date with Twitter, but that’s a little harder for me. I just don’t engage with social media that much.

What are your best technical or creative skills?

I’ve been feeling really good about my React. It’s not that I think I’m a master, but I’m writing it on a daily basis and I see myself getting better every time I look at code I wrote even just a week ago.

What’s next on your list to learn?

As much as I’d love to add another language to my toolbelt, I really want to go as deep as I can with JavaScript. My aim is to be a kung-fu master instead of a jack of all trades. I’m working my way through a book series called “You Don’t Know JS” that really digs into the nitty-gritty of Javascript. I’m flexible and would be excited to learn whatever makes the most sense to help get the job done.

Are you interested in working for a startup, mid-sized company, or a corporate giant?

At this time, I’m going to say a mid-sized company. I can see the appeal in all three categories and definitely want to experience all three, but the reason I say mid-sized is that it will have enough structure for someone to be focused on their specific job and not pulled ten different ways, and a level of community where people are investing in each other.

In the future, I probably will lean towards startup. I had a startup restaurant during my time as a chef and it’s something I’m really proud of. It’s an adventure I want to go on in the tech world eventually.

Interested in looking at Andrew’s credentials? Here you go! PortfolioGitHub, and LinkedIn.