I have always been a cook. From the time my mother felt I was old enough to make family dinner—age six—I’ve been an enthusiastic cook and baker. Back then it was easy—my dad owned a dairy and bakery in Appleton, Wisconsin where we lived, and our kitchen was always stocked with great quality raw ingredients. My first afterschool job in high school? Driving my boyfriend’s family’s refurbished checker cab to the store for provisions and making dinner for everybody!
I spent a couple of years at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, majoring in art, design, French and socializing, before discovering that I could actually attend a school devoted entirely to cooking. Hooray! In a flash I was off to the Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park NY, where I became part of the 3%. The three percent who were female students. Yes, that was then. Those numbers have risen since I attended in 19…a long time ago. That choice, made on a whim, was the best ever made by me.
I have cooked in many great restaurants and for many terrific chefs, including Nora Pouillon at Restaurant Nora, YannickCam at Le Pavillon, Jean-Pierre Goyanvalle at Le Lion D’Or (where I was the first woman ever hired to work the line) and the beloved Tabard Inn. I did stints as a poissonier, a pastry chef, sous chef, catering chef, grillardin, chef de garde manger and as a dishwasher (briefly). And I did my share of front-of-the- house work as well, both serving and tending bar. Those years molded me. I graduated from my restaurant apprenticeship with real skills and discipline, skills that serve me every day as a food stylist.
In the years since I have worked as a writer, teacher, craftsperson, food hat milliner to Rosie O’Donnell and assorted other professions that have no title. I am the proud author of The Artful Pie (Chapters, 1992), a best-selling cookbook, and You’re the Chef (American Girl, 2016), newly minted.
My experience as a food stylist enables me to move fluidly between the editorial and corporate worlds. I’ve worked with The Washington Post, The Washingtonian, the Smithsonian, Vegetarian Times, Eating Well, National Geographic, Mt Vernon and Monticello —and a slew of large companies as well, including the Marriott corporation, McCormick Spice, the California Almond Board, Nexcen, Cuisine Solutions and Perdue.
My professional affiliations include Les Dames d’Escoffier, the Southern Foodways Alliance and the Toaster Museum Foundation. I’m a proud charter member of the Culinary Historians of Washington.
My mother says, that “I put a premium on fun.” Combine that with a ton of energy, creativity and verve, and you get me—on my best days. My best days are any styling day or play day that includes making things with food, yarn, plants from my garden, fabric, paper, paint, or whatever is at hand. I am happiest when I work with my hands and even happier when working collaboratively. Like I said, I majored in socializing.
Check out my blog at thelunchencounter.com where I write and riff about sandwiches.