If you’ve ever worked in the food and beverage industry, you’ll know it takes someone special to withstand the kitchen. Michelle is the Sous Chef at Cilantro and is one tough cookie that’s worked hard to prove her place on the line. She’s Chef Lance’s right-hand and brings determination and passion for food and flavour to the table. We spoke with Michelle to find out a little bit more about her time at Cilantro and career journey with CRMR.
How long have you been working at Cilantro and with CRMR?
I started working with CRMR back in October of 2012 where I was hired by Chef Lance to be a pastry chef at Bar C. There I worked my way up and became the Sous Chef. When Bar C closed, Lance brought me next door to Cilantro where I continued to make desserts and support him as Sous Chef in the kitchen.
What made you want to take a career in cooking?
I’ve always had an interest in cooking, but more in the baking and pastry side of it. I originally studied at the Art Institute of Vancouver back in 2010 where I completed a year of schooling and received my diploma in Baking and Pastry Arts. When I first moved to Calgary it was difficult to find a job in this field, so I figured ‘why not try working the line?’ That’s when I met Lance and I’ve been here ever since! I love that this job allows me to grow my skills and expertise in the kitchen, and work alongside a really talented team.
How does working with Chef Lance inspire you as a sous chef?
Without a doubt, Lance has helped shape me into the chef that I am today. Every day he pushes our team and he holds our kitchen to an extremely a high standard. Like any team that works in a kitchen, there are stressful moments and we can sometimes have disagreements, but we always come out on the other end stronger. I wouldn’t be where I am right now if he wasn’t constantly pushing me to be the best he knows I can be!
What are the pros and cons of working in a male dominated industry?
I could ramble off an entire list and compare the two but honestly if you show up for your job, do it to the best of your ability, take pride in your work and grow as an individual there you will gain the respect of your peers and become a force to be reckoned with! Not everyone is cut out for this job. If you can’t take criticism and can’t be on your feet for countless hours, then this isn’t the field for you. That being said, there is something really exciting about paving my way in this industry and proving that I can do anything I set my mind to.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years time? Do you have any goals you’d like to achieve?
When I moved here almost 7 years ago, I would have said you’re crazy if you said this is where I would end up. It’s been one heck of a ride, but I wouldn’t change any of it. Ten years from now who knows where this road may take me, but I wake up every morning and face the day as it comes to me. Some days are harder than others, but there is no better feeling than completing a crazy dinner service with satisfied customers. As for goals, I just continue to learn and grow within the food scene and push myself to step outside of my own comfort zone.
Do you have any advice for someone thinking of journeying into the culinary industry?
Unless you have a serious passion for food and cooking, don’t do it – honestly! You work long hours, sometimes in the most intense conditions. This industry is constantly changing, and you need to be willing to keep up and adapt otherwise you’ll find it tough. If you think you have what it takes, let’s see what you’ve got!
What’s your favorite thing to do on your days off?
If I’m not heading out to Okotoks to visit with my aunt, then you can find me either disc golfing in the summer time or shooting pool with Chef Lance in the winter.
Photography: Erik McRitchie