March 8 is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness against bias, and take action for equality.
I thought it would be both fun and enlightening to ask some of the professional female chefs at Newport Beach restaurants who or what inspired them to follow their cuisine dream.
Cathy Pavlos, executive chef and owner of Provenance: “I was raised rural in Orange County with a deep respect for eating local (hyper local, in fact, my Grandfather was a commercial farmer in Huntington Beach) and I have been surrounded by good food from birth. My family is Italian, and I grew up with the notion that as we were finishing breakfast, we were planning what to eat for lunch and dinner. My grandmother was the best cook in a very large and extended family; she was my inspiration. In her small village in Italy, her family owned the only bakery and she learned from birth how to bake. I still remember the Saturdays of my childhood watching her knead the dough on the big farm table. This dough would later go into the wood burning fireplace as a pizza or bread. I thought that it was magic. On Sundays, when cooking a family dinner for 50, she never even broke a sweat. The women of that generation will always be a formidable inspiration for me.”
Jessica Roy, chef at Cafe Jardin: “What inspired me to become a chef is that I learned I loved creating experiences for people that they would remember. We would throw lavish dinner parties for our family and friends and our house was and is the center of festivities and entertaining in our family. Before I ever stepped foot in a professional kitchen I grew up at the stove cooking with my mother and loved it. It always made me feel good. I found there was always some creative magic that happened and still does to this day. To put it simply, as a chef, food is my love language, and I put the love into the food to the best of my ability in the hopes of making someone happy.”
Chef Amy Lebrun, executive chef at Lido Bottle Works: “My family inspired me to become a chef. When I grew up, I would hear stories about my grandmother and her cooking. She is of French descent, so we had a bunch of rich tasting food and treats when we would visit her in New England each summer. I always strive to impress her with my cooking accomplishments. She is a very proud Mémère.”
Alejandra Padilla, executive chef at Five Crowns: “Right off the top of my head, I would say watching two hot tamales on PBS was my inspiration. They made Mexican food (which I identified with) and were the only two women I saw on food related shows. They sincerely looked like they loved what they were doing and having fun at the same time. It never seemed like “acting,” you could see how genuine their craft was.”