David Solomon swaps his DJ gear for a chef’s apron at a charity event

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(Bloomberg) – David Solomon is best known as the CEO of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. who moonlights as a DJ.

His cooking skills are not as celebrated. But on Wednesday, May 11, he tries his hand at a new job: sous-chef. At Food and Finance High School in New York, Solomon donned an apron for a Top Chef-style cooking contest. His tasks were to prepare the tomato sauce, check the cooking of the pasta and dress the finished dish.

The event celebrated the $600,000 donation from Goldman Sachs Gives — $100,000 of which came from Solomon himself — in partnership with the nonprofit Food Education Fund for scholarships for high school students in culinary arts. The program will give students the opportunity to graduate from CUNY schools without any debt while gaining culinary experience.

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“There’s more energy here than on a floor at Goldman Sachs,” Solomon said in a speech to an audience of mostly school students before his time in the kitchen. He also announced a personal donation in addition to funds from his company’s charity program. In his opening remarks, he said he’s been known to cook a turkey, as well as the occasional grilled cheese.

The theme for the 15-minute cooking contest, however, was pasta.

“Pasta sauce is new to me,” Solomon said.

Solomon’s three-person team faced two other teams. One of them included Kevin Love, NBA star and sports card investor. “I’m good at presentation,” he said, grating lemon zest. The other team included David Banks, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education.

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Bags of ingredients contained pasta and tomato sauce from Brooklyn’s Misi restaurant, as well as broccoli, garlic, anchovies and hot peppers.

The judges were Nicolas Jammet, co-founder and co-CEO of Sweetgreen Inc; radio host Dana Cowin; and Missy Robbins of Misi, also chef and co-owner of Lilia. His business partner, Sean Feeney, co-chairman of the board of the Food Education Fund and former Goldman Sachs employee, sparked Solomon’s interest in the fund 2½ years ago. Feeney said the donation will help create “a fantastic new training and associate’s degree program that will allow students to sharpen their skills and move forward.”

“Culinary arts is part of the fabric of New York City, and I’m thrilled to see all of the amazing things our students are creating and accomplishing,” Banks said. (When asked later if he would pledge to donate $500,000, Chancellor Banks replied, “We can’t all be Goldman.”)

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Solomon’s anchovy pasta was not the winning dish. That accolade went to Banks’ team’s pesto rapini spaghetti. “The anchovy pasta was a little salty,” Chief Justice Robbins said. “The pasta was very good,” Jammet said. “I would have eaten the whole plate.” But, they agreed, Banks’ pasta deserved to win.

Still, Solomon earned high marks from his team’s head chef, Melina Sosa. “David did wonders,” said the high school student, who taught Solomon how to toss pasta and sauce in the air while he worked on the stove. “He was in there, tossing pasta, tasting everything, checking the doneness.”

Robbins scoured the kitchen during the competition and endorsed Solomon’s skills. After the event, she said he could come and cook in Lilia’s kitchen with her. “It’s not easy to spin the noodles,” she said. “And he did.”

Solomon refused. “I will go to Lilia’s to eat, not to cook,” he said. The afternoon event didn’t make him consider giving up his DJ gig in favor of more time in the kitchen. “It doesn’t happen,” he said. “But I will cook more this summer.”

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