Chef News

Chrysa Robertson Dishes on Male Chefs, How She Handled a Customer Complaint and Why She's Not Really Arizona's Alice Waters

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You make a lot of cracks about male chefs. Care to expand on that? I'm always dishing shit on boy chefs because I find so many of them SO competitive, so interested in showing off or trying to prove something. Yes, that's a gross generalization, but it's my experience. A wise woman I know once said: " Women cook to please; men cook to impress." Discuss.

Coming up as a young cook, did you find that being a female put you at a disadvantage?: I was extremely fortunate to have fantastic female role models/mentors. It never occurred to me that I was disadvantaged. I just always felt that if I did my very best work and didn't make excuses, then I would succeed. My family instilled in me a tremendous work ethic: do your best, do it right the first time, don't expect praise just for doing your job well. The only time I remember feeling the gender issue was when I was working in Napa Valley for a male japanese chef [Hiro Sone]. Of course, I was working pantry/garde manger (that's where woman are put), and I asked to learn the mesquite grill.

People sometimes call you Arizona's Alice Waters. How do you feel about the comparison?: Hell, there is no way I would ever compare myself to Alice Waters. It's a great compliment to me, but I don't have a fraction of her single-minded passion, her dedication to her vision & her beliefs. To me, she is a purist. I am definitely not a purist. She is a HUGE inspiration to me, but I'm not even in her league.

Lynne Rossetto Kasper recently said to me that one of her issues with "local, organic, sustainable" was that only 10% of the population could afford to eat that way. Your thoughts?: I agree. I read a lot about this issue, the elite aspect of it. While the increased awareness of how our food is grown, processed, transported, etc has really educated people, there is still a long way to go before everyone sees the benefit of better, cleaner food. I think we have gotten used to paying too little for our food. The true cost of local/organic/sustainable food is higher than many people can afford.

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Nikki Buchanan