015 – Melissa Close-Hart, Junction Restaurant
What’s it like to be a female chef in an industry that doesn’t always recognize women with awards and accolades? What are some of the assumptions made about women chefs with regard to how they run a kitchen, prepare their food, present themselves?
Melissa Close-Hart is a celebrated chef with decades of experience under her belt. The only woman on Charlottesville’s “Mount Rushmore” of chefs, Melissa has been nominated four times as a James Beard semi-finalist during her tenure as Executive Chef of Palladio at Barboursville Vineyards. More times than any male chef in this area combined. What does she think of the Time magazine “Gods of Food” debacle that occurred a few years back? Do women just not pursue accolades? Or is that a generalization? In 2015, why do folks still assume men are line cooks and women are pastry chefs?
We discuss this at length during the episode as well as what it feels like to leave a kitchen after 14 years to pursue the dream of building something you can call your own. Her new venture, Junction, will open early next year in Belmont and feature cuisine with a Tex-Mex flavor, a tequila bar, and a much bigger dining room.
What one-word piece of advice does she give to young chefs just starting out to gain invaluable experience? How did working at McDonald’s prepare her for fine dining? What’s it like to not only change kitchens, but your whole cuisine? Why are Duran Duran and Kraft Mac and Cheese some of her favorite things? All this and more in Episode 15. I had a fantastic time talking with “Mama Mel” and I know you’ll enjoy it.
This episode is sponsored by In A Flash Laser Engraving.
SHOW NOTES – Links to items discussed within the episode:
- The Gods of Food – TIME picks the people who most influence what we eat-and how we think about it.
- Chef’s Table Season 1 on Netflix – Niki Nakayama of N/Naka in Los Angeles – Video trailer
- A Chef’s Life – Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer in Kinston, NC – Watch online!
- The Mind of a Chef – Watch online!
- Attempting Normal by Marc Maron
- Take This Waltz by Sarah Polley
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