BAD ASS OF THE WEEK: Rachel Aronow
Starting as a dishwasher, this DIY chef busted ass and made EXECUTIVE CHEF in two years’ time. She hasn’t been to culinary school; yet. Rachel shares her inspiring story of hard earned success and is yet another shining example of the fact that YOU are the only one holding yourself back from achieving ANYTHING you set your mind and heart to. Rachel is taking her DIY attitude and slowing taking over the world. One kitchen at a time.
If you’ve had the opportunity to eat Rachel’s cooking, you’ve never forgotten what she fed you. Her food is that good. Whether it be a “simple” sandwich, or extravagant dinner, if she cooked it, you’re stoked. She cooks with love and a level of flavor complexity that I don’t try to understand, I just appreciate and eat anything she offers. You would too. Describing herself as a “Culinary Teacher and Executive Chef;” her “day job” is focused on the final phase of a thirteen week crash course in Culinary Arts for the United States Coast Guard, Chef Aronow instructs students on the timely pressures of using all their earned knowledge for high volume production cookery. Chef Aronow goes on to say, “I’m crazy enough to continue working into the wee hours of the night doing private chef events, catering, bartending, and much more.”
Why not start with the most obvious question, what inspired your passion for the culinary world?
“There were two pretty defining moments…the first, I was a toddler living in Seattle with my parents. My dad set me on our stark white counter with a cutting board, knife, some carrots and said “This is how to cut a carrot. Don’t you dare cut yourself! (haha), you are going to learn how to cook, I’m going to show you how, starting with safely cutting.” My mom walked in on the moment, flabbergasted and worried but there was no stopping my joy of cooking. From there, I realized how capable I was even at a young age and it became part of my life. My parents have always noted my sauces, I had a knack for being able to take just about anything in the fridge and whip it up into something satisfying if not, quite surprising.”
Wow dude, I was stoked on learning how to make something as simple as Jello when I was a kid. You were choppin’ and making sauces. Righteous. This certainly explains a lot about why you seem to have such a natural intuition when creating flavor profiles for your meals. You’ve been doing it all your life! How long would you say you’ve been “professionally” cooking?
“Since 2009. Not long, but I’ve climbed the ranks quickly…when done with college, my best friend got me my first kitchen job as a dishwasher. I went from dishwasher to executive chef in two years at a casual fine dining restaurant, ending in Michelin recognition. The Michelin guide is an international reference that adheres to what has been noted as the highest standard of culinary excellence. The chefs that run kitchens awarded by The Michelin Guide do not only stand apart from the majority but, push the standard higher in this craft. With comparatively no experience to the rival chefs of the area, my kitchen earned that recognition and our place among the best and brightest. Directly after my kitchen received the spot in the lime light, I resigned from my position to work for the United States Coast Guard as a culinary instructor.”
Already you have achieved more than most chefs twice your age that have gone to school.You have the ability to manipulate and recreate food that in a way that can change someone’s whole perspective on what it means to enjoy food. What keeps you going after something like that? How do you stay motivated to keep going and get that next Michelin Star?
“Cooking isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a self-motivated, high stress, grueling, HIGH ANXIETY career. For what I want, the sacrifice will take everything from me and I know that. I refuse to give up until I achieve my goals. If that puts me in the grave, so be it! That’s my dream and passion and I won’t give it up for anything or anyone. I’m lucky to have a partner, family, and friends that support me endlessly and understand my passion. It’s hard sometimes and the schedule doesn’t always allow for doing some of the things we’d like to. It’s the blood, sweat and tears that we put into our dreams; the hope, drive and ambition to recreate a memory or create a lasting impression with all the tools that encompass culinary. The last meal you serve is what you’ll be remembered by. This is my art and my life.”
Wow. Amen to that. May we all be so driven to pursue our dreams. Have the majority of your students already taken culinary courses? Are they there to become chefs like you or simply wanting to learn a new trade?
“My students are high schools grads to men and women with collegiate degrees. Some with kitchen experience and others, unsure of how to use a microwave – it varies drastically. Many of them are coming to school with the hope to learn the trade but, some of them come to school with the determination to take culinary by storm. They are the ones I hope to see in the private sector one day carrying on the creativity and balance it takes to be part of this craft. I consistently strive to provide a high standard of culinary excellence and give them the best education and experience in 3 months that many schools aren’t able to achieve with longer course terms.”
So where are you going with all this? What are your ultimate aspirations, hopes and dreams in the world of food?
“I plan to go to culinary school in 2015. I found that for my future endeavors there’s no way to continue on my path without the certification and support of classical training. I certainly do not know it all but, I can try with every ounce of my being to earn as much knowledge throughout my career as possible…
With that I would also like to achieve my level 3 pro chef, which certifies that I am a master chef. After receiving both of those certificates I would like to go on and earn three Michelin stars. A standard given only to the top 1% of the chefs in the world. I want to represent my country and win the “James Beard” award for BEST CHEF.
I want to do this all before I’m 40.”
Good luck and God Speed, man! If anyone could pull that off, I know it’s you. I’d bet my life on it. I know the base you’re currently feeding lucky people at is out of reach for most of us, but did you mention that you are catering/cooking at an event soon?
“Yes, DEADFEST. I grew up in the DIY scene so to be able to give back to it in my own way as an adult is very sentimental. There’s nothing better than being able to cook in an environment where people are enjoying a multitude of different music, food, fashion, attitude and general subcultures in one melting pot. I’m giving something back to the community when working DIY events like DEADFEST. Everyone is there because they want to be. Having a good time, listening to good music and eating GOOD food.”
You have a chance to check out her cooking…come eat, drink, and be merry with your underground DIY punk community. (venue: Oakland Metro Opera House)
Rachel is an inspiration to the DIY community, aspiring chefs, women and food lovers at large. She worked her way to the top using her love of food, passion and fierce competitive spirit to get where she is today. She hasn’t stopped and I know she never will. Rock on Chef Aronow, I’ll be submitting your info to shows such as CHOPPED and MASTER CHEF on the food network soon! MUAHAHAHAHAHA!
Here we share photos of food that provide a glimpse into her cooking genius…
The Ceasar Salad of your dreams…
The menu of Menus…
Chef Rachel Aronow Presents:
Hickory planked scallops with asparagus tips and fennel vapor, floated on Henhouse Saison mousse
Ahi tartar, coconut bubbles, and blue corn crisps
Tempura apple with parmesan foam and bell pepper coulis
Sous Vide egg yolk croquette with spiced walnut dust and truffled challah
Wild flower and herb sprout salad with preserved tangerine vinaigrette
Roasted mango and mitzuna salad with fried Asian pear points
Shaved Cantaloupe and watercress dressed in blueberry-gin vinaigrette topped with finger lime caviar
Warm acorn squash salad with pecorino, candied walnuts, and burled cherries
Bourbon vanilla roasted pork cheeks with aged cheddar grits croquette and balsamic pearls
Seared filet mignon with strawberry- gin glaze, grilled platanos, flamed shishito peppers, bergamot olive oil foam
Bourbon braised short ribs, sautéed purple carrots, and sweet potato crème
Apricot glazed quail with gorgonzola polenta, Jameson caviar, and apple wood crystals