Chef Jason Roberts

Celebrating Moms and Women in the Culinary World

Chef Jason

Recently, I had the pleasure of presenting a gluten-free cooking demonstration at the Les Dames d’Escoffier Symposium in Philadelphia. A real celebration of women in the culinary world. Through it I was introduced to the Les Dames d’Escoffier International, an incredible organization for women in the culinary world--from business owners, restaurateurs and chefs, to food enthusiasts, bloggers and authors.

Today I thought I would I would write a little something and acknowledge the really important women in my life. I have known many female colleagues in my 22 years as a chef/cook, and in fact, my first real foot up in the hospitality world was through a female head chef, Megan, a real inspiration and mentor. She really took me under her wing and claimed me as her own. Her guidance and encouragement, for me as an 18-year-old in a tough industry is something I am forever indebted to her for. In fact, I am pretty sure 80% of the kitchen staff were women… lucky me! They were all strong-minded women, hard as nails, but they created food with flair, ease and finesse.

Let's not take this out of context, they took no sh%t either! There was no time for mucking around in a busy commercial kitchen, I remember getting slammed on the weekends, with a huge line-up out the door for people wanting to be seated. Ravesis was a real hot spot in the early '90s. The women of the kitchen were cool, calm and collected and more times than not, dragged me out of trouble as I was always up to my neck in breakfast orders. Their patience is most likely the reason I stayed in the industry.

My Nana Goodman along with my grandfather, were the head cooks at a boarding school for girls on the South Island of New Zealand (Waitaki Girls High School). She ran a kitchen that was full of female chefs. I always got my cheeks pinched and loved the energy that these women brought to the kitchen. I was 4 so you can only imagine the attention I got... ohhh, and the treats. So as you can see there has been no shortage of good roll models that are both positive and nurturing. Now you might understand why I love this industry.

My mum, another great cook, but more importantly another woman who continues to inspire. I have fond memories of sitting up on the bench watching her pack meat, after we had a whole carcass of beef butchered. She would pack and label the cuts of steak, mince, chops, etc. There was no time for weak stomachs growing up in the bush; chickens, turkeys and fish were beheaded, plucked, scaled and guttered in a matter of moments. My mum was the cook, and put amazing meals on our family table 7 nights a week. Thanks, mum!

More of late, since the passing of my Nana Goodman, my sister Jodie has taken over the roll of making Risolia, our family salad of celebration (beets, apples, boiled egg, sour cream, ham, salmon, parsley, onion, etc.). Friends and family know it as "the pink salad in an old ice cream container." This salad is our family heirloom and the gift our Nana has left us. I love my sister for keeping up the tradition.

So here’s to all you ladies in the culinary world, and of course a special shout out to my mum, Nana, Sister and all you mums out there. May you all have a very Happy Mother’s Day!