ABOUT CHEF MEL
My love for food didn’t come at an early age: in fact, I was actually a very picky eater growing up. My background, however, provided some taste for different cultures that helped me explore different foods. My mother immigrated from Cuba in the early 60s and my father’s family is of German descent. After my parents divorced, my sister and I lived with my father, and so he tried his best to make food that we would eat and that wasn’t too costly. He isn’t the greatest cook, but he tried his hardest and made some pretty solid dishes that my sister and I loved like new potatoes, green beans and ham, and his famous beef and vegetable soup – my personal favorite. To this day my sister and I have not been able to reproduce it, no matter how many times we attempt it. My dad will tell us step-by-step what goes in and it’s still just not the same. I think it has a little to do with the love that he put into it.
After high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was thinking I would go to school for pre-med to eventually become an ophthalmologist. After my first human anatomy class, I decided that wasn’t for me, so I decided to work for the local grocery store chain full time as a department manager. I was 19 and I was content; I was making decent money for my age and I was a manager. It was there that I realized that I had a love for food. I came home one day and told my dad that I was going to back to school for culinary arts, I wanted to be a chef. He about keeled over with shock. We still joke about it to this day. Who would have thought that a picky eater would now be the adventurous one? I love everything about food. I love how it has the ability to bring people together. One of the most intimate things you can do is have a meal with someone. You learn so much about history, culture and a family. You create memories, memories that will last a lifetime.
During culinary school, I worked a couple of jobs, one full time at the grocery store in the kitchen and another a restaurant as a line cook. It didn’t take me long to realize that line cooking wasn’t my thing. I love catering, that is my forte. I love entertaining. But what I didn’t know is that my love for food would turn into a career as a professor. At 26 I was asked to sub for a former teacher while she was away for a week. I loved every minute of it. They asked me back the following year to be an adjunct instructor, and that turned into a full-time position. I am getting ready to start my 16th year at Kirkwood. During that span, I helped open our teaching hotel as the Executive Chef and then became the Food and Beverage Director before coming back to teaching full time – all while earning my Bachelors of Business. Working at Kirkwood has made me realize that I love teaching but I also love learning so I continued on in my own studies and just recently finished my Master’s in Strategic Leadership. I tell my students that they have to keep learning. That no one can take what you learn away from you. What’s great about teaching and meeting new people is that I learn from them as well!
My upbringing, my time at Kirkwood, traveling with students, and marrying the love of my life (stay tuned for that story) who is Palestinian and has a thirst to explore the world just as I do is what has shaped me into the “foodie” I am today.
You can say that food, culture, learning, teaching, friendship and family are my passions.
It is my term of endearment and the perfect name for our house. My husband and I enjoy entertaining but don’t do it as often as we would like. A lot of times we end up having small impromptu dinners or just have people over for drinks.
You can count on us to always have stuff for mules- vodka or rum for the hubs and Kentucky for yours truly.
why chef mel
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