Feb. 18, 2022

What is a Chef with Virginia Willis

What is a Chef with Virginia Willis

This week, we have a mini-episode about what it means to be a chef. This is something I'm asking many of the guests as part of my upcoming season 3 interviews. I thought it would be great to get as much insight on this as possible, from many different people in the food and beverage industry.

Today's answer comes from Virginia Willis. She was the TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree and executive producer for Epicurious TV on the Discovery Channel. She’s made cookies with Dwanye “The Rock” Johnson, foraged for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvested capers in Sicily, and beguiled celebrities such as Jane Fonda and Bill Clinton with her cooking -- but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Virginia is the author of a number of books including Lighten Up, Y’all, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all, Okra, and Grits.

You can find my full conversation with her here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Looking to make better pizza? How about bagels, bread, or English muffins? Then you need a Baking Steel. Don’t just take my word for it. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats/The Food Lab said “this is the answer I've been waiting for to produce consistently awesome pizza over and over”.

Virginia Willis


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Founder Chris Spear’s personal chef business Perfect Little Bites

Chris Spear:

This is another one of those what it means to be a chef episodes. This week, I already aired a full episode with Chef Virginia Willis and I highly encourage you to go check it out. So like I've been doing with a lot of the other episodes, I've been exercising the portion where I asked what it means to be a chef. And for those of you who haven't heard one of these episodes before, what I'm doing this season is asking all of my guests what it means to be a chef and taking that portion out and releasing it as a little mini series. I think it's an interesting question, especially for the Chefs Without Restaurants community, as most of us don't work in restaurants, but people think of chefs as someone who leads a team in a professional restaurant setting. So I would love for you to let me know what you think about this. Do you like this series? What do you think about Virginia's answer? Feel free to send me an email at chefs without restaurants@gmail.com or DM me at Chefs Without Restaurants on Instagram. And if you enjoy the show, in general, I would love for you to share it with people, the best thing you can do is let everyone know that the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast is out there. We can be found on all podcast players. So just get the word out. And if you really love us, leave us a review. Thanks so much for listening and have a great weekend. One question that I love to ask is What does it mean to you to be a chef? And it seems silly to ask but like do you identify as a chef because I talked to a lot of people who say they don't even identify as a chef, they'd rather be a cook. So what does that mean to you?

Virginia Willis:

So cook versus chef? That's a great question. And it really is a hard, it's hard to answer because I do consider myself a cook. But I feel like that this society wants to call me a chef. Right? And I you know, I have a friend that I help out with sometimes. And you know, I've told her last week, I'm like, Look, I'll do anything you want. You just got to be clear with me what you want. I will wash dishes, or I will produce a TV series a full full fledged, you know, TV cooking series. I'll do either one. I'm happy doing either one. I just need to know what you need from me. So it's really not about ego, right? I mean, I guess if I were like, I'm asked all the time, like, what's your tagline? And I have gotten where I say like, um, you know, Jeff and James Beard award winning cookbook author, because those are those are crystal clear about what I do. You know, in the past 30 or so years, you know, chef's went from being and went from being completely blue collar to being like with the advent of Food Network, right. And now you have people that if they can hardly pick up anything more than a butter knife, but they're calling themselves a chef, because you know, they don't have a lot of experience. But you know, it's a it's a complicated it's a it's a complicated business. And I think that there's definitely a rock star sort of feel to it was some folks and you know, once again, I can't tell you how many, many times I've been asked like, You're a chef, what's the name of your restaurant? Yep, no.

Chris Spear:

Go to chefswithoutrestaurants.org to find our Facebook group, mailing list and Chef database. The community's free to join. You'll get gig opportunities, advice on building and growing your business and you'll never miss an episode of our podcast. Have a great week.