In the mid-1980’s, I graduated from the New York Restaurant School. Starting as “pantry” girl (the hot & cold appetizer station), I worked my way up through the ranks in kitchens that were mostly staffed with men. As a very short woman I had to work extra hard to earn the respect of my co-workers and prove that I could handle large, heavy stockpots along with the best of them, in 2- and 3-star restaurants at the beginning of the food explosion and bistro craze of the 80’s.
The first restaurant I worked at was Quatorze under Chef Steve Lyle, and the skills I learned there continue to be important to this day. I went on to George Studley’s long-lived restaurant, La Colombe d’Or, where I worked the grill and sauté stations—and then it was on to the celebrated Gotham Bar & Grill under renowned Chef Alfred Portale who taught me how to make the perfect French omelet and ravioli by hand.
During the late 80’s I worked as sous-chef at Miss Ruby’s Café, a popular regional American restaurant in the Chelsea district. At the same time I also volunteered in Thomas Keller’s first restaurant, Rakel, several evenings a week. What an experience! I later went on to run the kitchen at the longstanding Bridge Café in lower Manhattan, where I spent four years.
In 1993, after a particularly cold and icy winter, I fled New York for a chef’s job in the Caribbean. It was a lot of fun working on a tropical island, but a bit of a challenge as well because the produce and seafood were not of the same quality or diversity to which I had become accustomed. After three years in the tropics I was ready to come back to civilization; I moved to Marin County, where I snagged jobs first at The Lark Creek Inn and then Insalata’s before turning to catering.
Most recently, I held the position of Chef-in-Residence at Williams-Sonoma in Los Gatos and taught cooking classes there, which was a lot of fun as I love working with small groups and people one-on-one, sharing my knowledge, experience and stories.
The concept for Culinary Craftwork had its roots in my desire to share my knowledge and passion for food with others and help them learn the techniques necessary to cook well without it being a chore. The only thing I love more than cooking is eating!
Explore how fun and personal cooking with Chef Alyssa can be!