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Interview with Chef Winnona

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Recipes Wiki InterviewEdit


Chef Winnona at work!

How did you get started with cooking? Edit

I baked all the time with my mother when I was a child, but I really started cooking when I went to college. I realized that I couldn't live on top ramen and mac and cheese. So, I watched the Frugal Gourmet and Graham Kerr on TV. I checked out cookbooks from the library. I scoured garage sales for cookbooks. My roommates really appreciated all of my experiments, some more than others. Then I cooked for my husband and kids. It's challenging getting a 4-year old to like Brussels sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, and artichokes. But it happened! - Chef Winnona

Where have you cooked and where are you currently cooking? Edit

I cook for my family and clients in their homes in the real O.C. I cook for busy families, surgeons, programmers, pretty much anybody who wants to eat healthier food than what you can pick up from restaurants. Most of my clients have some special dietary need - low salt, low carb. But they still want the food to taste phenomenal. - Chef Winnona

What kind of training did you go through? Edit

After giving home cooking demonstrations for The Pampered Chef, I was trained by the American Personal Chef Association as to the proper way to run a business as a personal chef. I became certified to prepare safe food, just like I would while working in a restaurant. Essentially self-taught with cooking, I record: all of Rachael Ray's 30 minute meal shows, Alton Brown's Good Eats, and Dave Lieberman's cooking show. I don't know everything that I want to know about cooking, yet. But, I am learning at an exponential rate now. - Chef Winnona

How difficult is it to become a personal chef? Edit

Not very. You need a few things - basic cooking knowledge, a passion for cooking, 10 great recipes, and confidence. You can build everything else you'll need. Your neighbors will gladly be your taste testers for additions to your "top 10" and you can always take cooking classes. To stand the test of time, however, you have to fill a "need" for people. Why should they pay you to cook their food when they can swing by their favorite restaurant on the way home from work? Because you (and only you) add something special - love. I know it sounds corny. But doesn't a sandwich that someone else makes always taste just a little better than the one you make? Same physical ingredients, but different emotional ingredients. - Chef Winnona

Is there anything that you regret regarding this career? Edit

I wish I had more days in the week to cook for clients and still enjoy my family. My kids are young and I know they won't stay young forever. So, it's tough to find a balance. - Chef Winnona

Tell us a funny thing that happened to you while on the job. Edit

Good grief. While cooking for a very elderly, retired couple I set off their fire alarm because I browned some bacon and smoke filled their tiny apartment. Because all 3 of us are short, the man had to find a step ladder to stand on to reach the alarm. I felt horrible, but the woman said, "well that's probably the most excitement I'll have all week!" - Chef Winnona

You cook all day – so what's your favorite dish? Edit

Hmm. It kind of rotates based on what vegetables are in season and what cooking shows I have watched. Right now, I like making stuffed chicken breasts with spinach walnut pesto. I make the pesto with feta cheese, bread the stuffed breasts, fry them for 5 minutes then bake them in the oven till 160 degrees internally. They rise to 165 while they rest. Moist, tender, incredible. My daughter likes grilled salmon the best, while my husband likes spicy stir-frys. - Chef Winnona

What do you like to do when not cooking? Edit

I like to play with my kids, go shopping (we have some great malls), watch cooking shows, plan vacations. - Chef Winnona

What's the most memorable thing someone said about your cooking? Edit

One client's daughter only ate "beige" food - bread, pasta, pears, cheese, waffles, etc. So the daughter and I planned a dinner party for her family. She and I made the menu based on the theme of her choice. She created the invitations and delivered them. She helped me cook after she came home from grade school. And, since all good cooks taste their food before serving it to their guests, she tried all of the food. Her family was so impressed with her involvement, that they insisted I sit and eat with them. Later the mom told me that her daughter had tried more new food in the month that I started cooking for them than in the previous 5 years! I was ecstatic. We've planned several dinner parties now and she isn't so hesitant to taste new things. - Chef Winnona

What advice would you give someone interested in becoming a chef? Edit

You have so many options. Do you want to learn at a university? Or go to the school of hard knocks? Maybe you could start as a server at a restaurant and let the manager know you want to cook. Or maybe your parents are loaded and can send you to Europe to train at a culinary academy. Any way you do it, the style has to fit your personality. You have to love what you do. So, you may want to test it out by being someone's apprentice for a time. - Chef Winnona

Is there any additional information about your projects or yourself you would like readers to know? Edit

It's really fun to give private cooking lessons. I give my favorite charitable organizations gift certificates for those and people love them! I feel like I'm doing my own, personal, cooking show and the people are so appreciative. It's my way to really give of my time. - Chef Winnona

See Also Edit

Chef Winnona's Recipes Wiki Category
Chef Winnona's Recipes
Chef Profile: Chef Winnona

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