Day job: Chef de cuisine at The Kitchen
Former life: Golf phenom
The Kitchen is about the performance as much as the food. How did you establish an onstage rapport with executive chef Kelly McCown?
It’s something that has evolved over time. Kelly and I offer a very different show, but we both turn on the happy when we have to. On our days off, we’re not huge people people. We’d rather have time alone or with loved ones.
How have you put your stamp on the productions?
What we’ve started doing with our menus is adding some personal touches. For me, that means going foraging with my dog for two or three hours every morning to look for garnishes or walk the property with our farmers to see where we’re at with things. Being able to include that in the show provides an experience to our guests that they can’t find anywhere else.
You’re the first woman to serve as chef de cuisine at The Kitchen. Is that an important achievement to you?
Of course it’s important. Is it everything? No. I’m a female in a male-dominated industry. I think our patrons notice it more than I do.
You’ve been very candid about becoming sober while succeeding in an industry infamous for its immoderation.
At The Kitchen, I finally found the family that I’ve been searching for the whole time I’ve been cooking. My life is different these days; I’m coming up on three years clean and sober. What I’m experiencing now and what is part of my show is being vulnerable and sharing with my guests this sense of gratitude that I wake up with every single day. I have a new outlook on cooking and on an industry that has chewed me up and spit me out. It’s nothing I’m ashamed of; it’s part of my story.
Is there any part of your golf training that prepared you for the intensity of a performance-style kitchen?
There’s a dedication and a work ethic required for both. In fact, I just picked golf back up. I had quit playing and it actually took me getting into AA to start playing again. To come back to a city that was super supportive of my golf career when I was younger and still get that same support today is amazing. I feel fortunate that I get to play golf with Randall [Selland] when we can find the time.
What is it about being in a restaurant kitchen that speaks to you?
It takes a certain type of crazy to do what we do. There is that perception that chefs are egotistical and narcissistic. But we are perfectionists and artists and we speak through the food that we create. It’s a beautiful thing.