Get Inspired by 3 Chefs Dishing On Women in the Kitchen 

Traditionally seen as a boys club, the professional kitchen has been undergoing some changes in recent years. When Ariane founded D’Artagnan in 1985 there was one female chef among her New York customers, but today there are many women leading kitchens across the country. In honor of Women’s History Month, we spoke to three of our clients who have smashed the stainless steel ceiling and become executive chefs. Meet these extraordinary chefs in the post below.

Chef Melissa Rodriguez of Del Posto in NYC

Melissa J. Rodriguez is Executive Chef at Del Posto. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America where she earned a degree in Culinary Arts, Melissa spent time cooking with Elaine Bell Catering and Oceana. In 2006, she was hired as a line cook at Daniel Boulud’s flagship Restaurant Daniel, where she quickly rose the ranks to Sous Chef. After five years at Daniel, Melissa joined the team at Del Posto in 2011 where she was promoted to Chef de Cuisine in 2015. Two years later, she became Executive Chef and Partner.

D’Artagnan has been a constant and reliable supplier for all things meat and poultry, with not only quality in mind but a sensitivity to sourcing and maintaining great relationships.

– Melissa Rodriguez, Executive Chef, Del Posto

Melissa Rodriguez Head Shot

What is your favorite D’Artagnan ingredient – and how do you use it in your cooking?

My favorite D’Artagnan ingredient is probably the most decadent: Foie gras. Foie gras to me is a special ingredient, meant to be used for special occasions and in appropriate increments. It’s an ingredient I like to feature because it is luxurious and special. Whether I make a foie gras terrine or speckle it into a filling or a farce, it’s always the product to elevate a dish or an event.

What advice would you give to other women looking to get started in a culinary career?

My advice to any woman entering the business is to work hard, stay focused, just try (you never know), and make small goals; they add up quickly to larger accomplishments. Don’t be dissuaded by words like ‘no’ or ‘can’t’. If you just try, words like ‘no’ become ‘I will’, ‘I can’ and ‘I did’.

What would your last meal be?

My last meal would be eating oysters and a roasted chicken with a great bottle of champagne.

Do you have a favorite kitchen memory?

On my first day at Daniel, I almost blew up the Bonnet. I didn’t really know the knobs on the stove and none of them had any markings. I put a half sheet tray of coconut to toast in what I thought was a low oven. I was quickly (maybe 1 minute later) to be mistaken when I opened the oven door and flames were shooting out. I turned off the gas and said a little prayer. I opened the door again, more flames! Eddy Leroux came running with a fire extinguisher, needless to say, I was incredibly embarrassed. But in retrospect it makes me giggle. I didn’t blow up the Bonnet and I learned that although I was the new person, I was going to make mistakes, but people around me were going to help me along the way.

Keep up with Chef Melissa and Del Posto on Instagram.

Chef Jorlian Rivera of S3 in Florida

Jorlian Rivera was sous chef for more than three years at S3, a Fort Lauderdale beach culinary hotspot, before rising to Executive Chef. Her passion for the culinary arts blossomed at a young age as she traveled the country with her parents and was inspired by the diverse variety of foods and flavors.

While pursuing a degree in hospitality at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Rivera landed the position of saucier for Café Maxx in Pompano Beach, where she had the opportunity to work with locally renowned Chef Oliver Saucy. Rivera was sous chef for Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Chicago, and kitchen supervisor for the opening team of Cheesecake Factory in Naples, FL, executive sous chef at Max’s Harvest in Delray Beach before joining S3 in her previous position as sous chef.

jorlian rivera

What is your favorite D’Artagnan ingredient – and how do you use it in your cooking?

Mushrooms, especially the maitake. I use them as a meat substitute to do plant-based dishes, usually, fried crisp.

What advice would you give to other women looking to get started in a culinary career?

Always stick to what you believe in and never let anyone tell you otherwise. This field is very difficult and demanding, but also rewarding. Just never give up and always one-up each other in a friendly competition to improve and elevate each other.

What was your most memorable meal?

My most memorable meal until this day is not only an experience but the simplicity. I had the pleasure to eat in Paris Dans le Noir (where you dine in the dark, and all the waiters are blind). Having a blind server, not knowing what I was about to enjoy, how loud it gets because one of your senses is turned off, it’s like experiencing the term “foodgasm.”

Do you have a favorite kitchen memory?

Any and all chefs’ favorite kitchen memory is when you compose a dish for the first time and it sells out on a slow night, you know you did something right to tantalize the guest to order and enjoy that great dish. Also memorable, my great (D’Artagnan) rep Katie bringing farmers to visit and demoing fun products so I can run different features.

Keep up withChef Jorlian and  S3 on Instagram.

Chef Rhiannon Evans of Quaker Ridge Golf Club in NY

Rhiannon Evans is the Executive Chef at the historic Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, NY. She grew up in Nottingham, England where she gained her Higher National Diploma and a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Hospitality and Business Management. During her studies, she traveled to America to complete her culinary internship and she has been climbing the kitchen hierarchy ever since. Before coming to Quaker Ridge Golf Club Chef Evans worked as Executive Sous Chef at Tamarack Country Club in Greenwich CT and Elmwood Country Club in White Plains, New York. In December 2019 Chef Evans was part of the culinary team that impressed quests at the MET Golfers 5th annual Epicurean Golf event in Anguilla.

I don’t think that I have met a group of people that care more about their products than the team over at D’Artagnan. Every product they supply is bred with care and respect, and it shows. The sales team are incredibly knowledgeable about what they are selling, they seem to really enjoy what they do and their enthusiasm is a little contagious.

– Rhiannon Evans, Executive Chef, Quaker Ridge Golf Club

Rhiannon Evans Chef Quaker Ridge Country Club
“As a chef we take a basic need, fueling the body, and turn it into an experience. Food wows and inspires, it evokes memories and creates memories. Food has a way of bringing people together and I take great pride in being part of that.”

What is your favorite D’Artagnan ingredient – and how do you use it in your cooking?

One of my favorite products from D’Artagnan is Green Circle Heritage chicken. The way the birds are raised makes for an exceptional product with a taste way superior to other chickens on the market, plus the yellow coloring of the fat on the chickens reminds me of family vacations to the south of France I took as a child.

It’s also good when you can get the whole bird, you can teach members of the kitchen how to correctly butcher the birds and utilize the extra feet, necks, and bones in a way to reduce waste and make the most of one product.

I think when you have a chicken so great its best to not overpower the natural flavor with strong marinades or ingredients. A simple roast with some butter smothered skin and simple seasonings. The perfect roast chicken with juicy meat and super crispy skin is an art form and often an overlooked dish.

What advice would you give to other women looking to get started in a culinary career?

Times are changing, although it may still be a mainly male-dominated industry, it’s not a male industry. Some of the best chefs out there right now just happen to be females.

Honestly, I think gender needs to be taken out of the equation. You don’t have a lawyer and a female lawyer. You don’t have a doctor and a female doctor.

It’s 2020, it’s time to put everyone on a level playing field, treat everyone the same and respect everyone the same. I am not a female chef, I am a chef.

Whether you are male or female, if you want to have a culinary career, don’t be scared, go get it. Start working in kitchens, get the experience you need and don’t let anything get in your way.

There may still be a few people out there who don’t think females have what it takes to become a chef but there is a greater number of people proving them wrong!

What would your last meal be?

My last meal, cut me  a little slack for this one as it’s not a ‘cheffy’ dish,

It would be chocolate Swiss roll, sliced up with  bananas and Birds instant custard

It was one of my favorite desserts as a child and brings back fond memories of sitting down at the table with my family, stuffing down those last few mouthfuls of horrible vegetables because I wasn’t allowed dessert until my plate was clean.

The dessert itself was a great mixture or cakey and gooey, hot and cold, sweet and a little bitter from the cocoa powder.

On a side note, I was very happy when we got a family dog that use to sit under the table and loved vegetables!

Do you have a favorite kitchen memory?

​The memory that first comes to mind is very bittersweet. It was 6 years ago and our chef had just suddenly passed away. For those outside of the kitchen, it’s hard to understand the bond that a kitchen can have. You are with each other 12 – 14 hours a day, sometimes 6 – 7 days of the week, you spend more time with your cooking partners than you do with your family.

The kitchen was hurting, but the way that everyone in that team came together, supported each other, lifted each other up, helped each other get through every day was exceptionally heartwarming. I will always remember how we were there for one another and how strong it made our team.

The kitchen is like no other family you will ever have. The bonds that you make with those other members are strong and what makes working in the kitchen such a great experience.

Keep up with Chef Rhiannon on Instagram.

Thanks for talking with us, chefs!

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