I thought I was going to save the world. I learned languages, traveled, worked in non-profits, worked at a foundation and made a difference. I got my master’s in international affairs. I lived abroad twice. And then I wasn’t so happy. What to do? Do what you love? But then you get tired of it and don’t love it anymore, right? I loved cooking. Could I, at almost age 40, start over and enter in the culinary world? Julia Child was 40 when she got her start. Well then, so could I.
I had been cooking probably since the age of eight when my mom let me make a meal. I found a recipe, she bought the ingredients, and I cooked it. Lamb stew. I don’t really remember how it was, but it was exciting for me to know that I was preparing something for the whole family. I would watch Julia Child, Martin Yan, and Jeff Smith during my summer vacations. This was in the 70s and 80s before the Food Network existed and you had to watch cooking shows on public television.
I was 14 years old when my sister and I became vegetarians. We cooked for ourselves, experimenting with recipes together. My mom would take us to the local health food store (there was only one near us on Staten Island in 1985), where we would buy ingredients. When in college, we’d create gourmet meals using only a microwave, toaster oven and hot plate!
My professional cooking began…
in 1999 at The Herbal Bear, a school in the Catskills for individuals wanting to learn about herbal medicine and healing. I was a co-chef there, shopping for ingredients in Brooklyn and driving three hours to provide meals for the students during their weekend classes. I thought it was a one-off thing…
Fast forward to 2011. I mentioned above that after 15 years in nonprofits, I decided I needed a change. I went to culinary school. I completed the Chef Training Program at Natural Gourmet Institute, where I interned at Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, one of the oldest vegetarian restaurants in the country. From the moment I stepped into the kitchen, I knew it was for me. It struck me like a bolt of lightning. I HAD to work in a restaurant. I loved the camaraderie of working together to get the meal out to the public. I loved the energy and quickness of the line. I loved being able to practice my Spanish with the prep crew.
Now to get a job. I cut my teeth on a private cheffing gig and worked with the same family for five years. Simultaneously, I applied to restaurants. I got my first restaurant break at MOB-USA, a newly established vegan restaurant, in Brooklyn. After a year, I became co-sous-chef there. I moved on to Pickle Shack, another emerging vegetarian restaurant/craft beer bar, also in Brooklyn. Then onto Dirt Candy, a well-known- well-loved, award-winning vegetable restaurant, run by a female chef. I learned lots! Helping to run a restaurant is very hard work and I was there for three years.
But, now, it’s time for my time to shine. To support my goals. Burnt Toast Kitchen NYC was born from my experience and learning from each chef I worked with. I look forward to working with YOU!