Chef News

Charleen Badman: On Male Chefs, Cooking for Famous People, and the Irrelevance of Her Lady Parts

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You've worked for Chrysa, Donna Nordin, and Anne Rosenzweig. Why did you choose to work with/for women?: I was 16 and working my first restaurant job with a male chef. When a position became available, he wouldn't move me up, saying if I wanted to progress, I would have to do pastry or prep. I decided I wasn't going to get anywhere with him, so I went to work for Donna at Café Terra Cotta. Since then, I've made a point to work for women chefs who are known to be difficult to work for. I wanted to be the best and to learn how to get where they were. All of them encouraged -- not discouraged -- me to be successful.

Female chefs in this town have a tough edge. Does being a woman in this industry do that to you? Or do you have to be ballsy to make it in the first place?: Is "tough edge" the new word for "bitch"? I'm a businesswoman, and it has nothing to do with my vagina.

Name two culinary mentors and explain what you learned from them: Chrysa [Robertson} and Anne [Rosenzweig]. I was working for Chrysa when she opened Rancho. I saw her build it. She took me to L.A. to buy used plates, not just order them and have them delivered. She was able to get me into other kitchens and do working vacations. I learned how to run a restaurant and use seasonal ingredients and of course, Rancho is where I met Pavle! I would not have come back from NYC to work for anyone else here in AZ. When I came back six years ago, she took me in and helped me get it together to do my own thing again.

And I can't say enough about Anne. She is such a great mentor and friend. She continues to share her business and food knowledge with me. We speak at least twice a week. I just came back from cooking a dinner in her honor a couple of weeks ago. It was wonderful. I visit and do R&D with her at least a couple of times a year. She is always teaching me about finding the perfect balance on where to save money and where to spend it. She has taught me to keep my eye on the bottom line but never at the expense of my food quality or creativity.

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Nikki Buchanan