Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My grandmother was a huge influence on me. As soon as I was old enough to stand on a stool in her kitchen, I learned I had a love and a knack for cooking. I flirted with other careers for a while, but once I really figured out this could be a career path for me, I knew being a chef was it for me. It’s in my blood. I went from helping my grandmother sell tamales to neighbors to now starting my own food business and brand. I don’t know if she truly realizes she’s the reason this all started for me.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started doing this?
Some of the best memories I’ve had were the times I was booked for unconventional gigs. Traveling was always my favorite. One particular private chef gig that was memorable was the summer I got booked to cook for a tour in Alaska. I foraged for ingredients. I caught and cooked fish that I caught from a glacier river and built a fire to cook it on. It was the closest I ever felt to my ancestors, and part of why I enjoy outdoor cooking so much. Nothing compares to catching a meal, cleaning it yourself, and cooking it over a fire outside. There’s a ritual to it, it’s primal and requires reverence to the life of the creature you are eating. You’re receiving nurturing and nourishment from it, so you have to respect it. More people should experience something like that, foraging and fishing or hunting. I think we would respect our food supply more if we all knew what it took to get that steak on your plate.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
There’s nothing that can really prepare you for chef burn out. This industry is tough and can really take you to the extremes of your emotions if you let it. Especially for women and people of color. We are the backbone of the industry, and really get treated that way too. Cook as much as you can with as many different ingredients and cuisines that you can. Practice, practice, practice your technique. Be humble. Over prepare. Most importantly, we have to normalize rest in our industry. Take your vacation days. Use your sick days if you have them. Take your breaks and lunches. As a culture, kitchen people tend to value the “work harder/more, complain less” ethos. There aren’t a lot of unions we can join to protect us from bad employers. We are underpaid. You have to put your health first. We are in uncharted territory in this industry right now, there is a lot of uncertainty. It is more important than ever to stick together and demand that our skills are compensated fairly, and we are allowed enough rest and recovery time; especially when our health is at risk.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There have been so many people who have helped me to get to where I’m at. I have mentors from culinary schools that have kept their eye out for me in my career, as well as my friends in this industry. Early on, I met this artist who was also starting out in her career – Tory DiPietro. She and I have mutual admiration and respect for each other. She has been one of my fiercest advocates and most loyal friends. I am so blessed to have her in my life. I think it’s important to have friends that inspire you to be your best self and live with your spirit as your guide. She is a once in a lifetime friend if you’re lucky.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I don’t have as much time for altruistic endeavors as I would like to, but I like to think that I bring goodness into the world through my work and treating everyone I meet with love. Feeding people, good food is an act of love. Every plate I make is from my heart.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” – Vince Lombardi
To me, that means that to chase perfection is not necessary to attain it but to attain excellence. You’re going to have a very blessed and full life if you commit yourself to be the best version of yourself that you can be. You’re going to fall short, that’s a given. But you have to leave it all out there, every ounce of yourself, leave it on the line. That is the only way you can truly be satisfied with your life, your work, your relationships. You have to give it your all. It’s not always going to translate to success, but you learn far more from your failures than you do from your successes.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can find me on any social media as “@yaaaschef”.