We had the good fortune of connecting with Chef Robee and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chef Robee, how do you think about risk?
I have always been a risk taker, as it has always been a part of my personality. As a child I loved to travel. My parents exposed me to traveling, fine dining and the arts at a young age. By the time I was 6 years old, I had traveled from California to NYC alone to visit my best friend and her family. I have always been a dreamer, a reader, and a thinker. By the time I graduated high school at 16 years old, I moved into my own apartment in San Francisco to attend the California Culinary Academy (now the Cordon Bleu School of Culinary Arts). I’ve always bet on my own talent, my drive and my ambition. For as long as I can remember I’ve been a nothing ventured, nothing gained type of person. I lived in France on my own after graduating from school, working in all male kitchens. Taking risks without taking into consideration the negative consequences would have been reckless, but I rarely let negativity or fear hamper my life choices. I moved Germany for a few years to run a series of restaurants looking to bring Californian modern menus to Heidelberg and Frankfurt. My decision to move to a different country while not speaking the language was shocking to people, but I was always confident choosing learning and experiencing new cultures rather than just standing in what was familiar or comfortable. I understood that cooking, food, the passion of discovery was my love language and eventually became my brand. I moved to Fiji as the 1st female, the first black woman, the first American to be the Executive Chef at an exclusive luxury dive resort. I was the youngest executive chef of 2 Universal Hôtels and Studios at age 25. My dreams as a kid of becoming a chef, manifested at every stage of my life. I’ve never been afraid of change. There’s an excitement of what’s to come, not a fear of what might happen. I always recognized change as a natural part of life’s transitions. The more actions I took to manifest my vision for myself, the more evolved my thought process became. From the thoughts, to speaking the words, to executing the action, has always proved to be a strong infrastructure for success for me. I raised my children as a single mom and ingrained these principles to them as they’ve grown grew and matured. Raising my children in this manner, giving them unconditional love and support was successful, as they are both chasing their dreams full of confidence, without regrets and into the very best people I know. Over the past few years I moved to Hawaii (another risky dream manifested) and truly found my niche, my brand’s clientele and my culinary sweet spot. I started a business offering luxury private chef services to both vacationers and residents on all of the Hawaiian Islands. Farm to fork, clean, green, local menus of sublime food By Chef Robee. Aloha!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My food, my vision and simplicity is my brand. I have taken a piece of every job I have had and incorporated into my style of cooking. I always stay open to learning, it’s important in this field to stay fresh and current. It has always felt easy for me (if I stay out of my head) which is one way I know I’m going in the right direction. Challenges are mandatory because everything is always changing in the food world. It’s about having a plan to work through the challenges, not echoing your self-saboteurs voice in your head and oh… Have a plan B, C & D. Living in Fiji, having my own garden, traveling to the big island’s farmers market and having the fishermen meet me on the shore with what they caught in the morning influenced my cooking the most in my career. I loved the purity, I could be a purist with my dishes and let single items shine. Learning what a client loves to eat, implanting a food memory of a lifetime. To be able to create that culinarily is such a vibe. It makes me unique, a food whisperer if you will.I’ll chase that feeling until I hang up my chef’s coat and knives for good. Don’t live in fear and speculation of what might or might not come to fruition. Have a vision, manifest your destiny and go for it!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We never hangout in the touristy spots. You will be amazed by the local joints, food trucks, and the farmers markets. I’m frequently at the Kaka’ako Farmers Market most Saturday’s which have amazing local artisans, farmers and vendors (or of course have me deliver food to you!). Although Nobu is a spot that we love to visit, It’s unfortunate with the COVID 19 restaurant casualties, they have yet to re open.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Julia Child has been a mentor my entire life. I have had so many! Mary Sue Millikan and Susan Feniger of City & Border Grill fame, came to my school as a sophomore for a demo. They gave me support and encouragement as women in the kitchen in a male dominated field. I told myself I would one day work with them, and that dream was realized as I helped open the Border Grill in Santa Monica, California. My Garde Manger instructor at school took an interest in me and taught me how to cut ice making ice sculptures. Culinary Arts school gave me an intense amount of exposure. I drew upon that education cutting ice at least 3 times a week at Universal. Working for Wolfgang Puck taught me to become confident in butchering skills. My parents encouraged me by taking me to cooking classes at 9 years old with the housewives of Encino at Marlene Sorosky’s Shop on the Boulevard. My father being in the wine business took our family to amazing restaurants and hotels all over Los Angeles. There was no kids menu for me, I loved escargot & foie gras as a kid, and I always went back to the kitchen to speak to the chef after our meal. Every single chef I have worked under taught me valuable lessons of what to do and how to behave, and what not to do and how to behave in the kitchen. My children in the 2nd phase of my life and career have been the most influential to me. My daughter began asking for lobster from the market by the time she was 1 years old, and my son has always loved simple home cooked meals, never interested in a cold sandwich for lunch, he always wanted a hot home cooked made from scratch meal. Cooking for my kids, teaching them to cook, building food memories has been the most meaningful manifestation for me. They allow me to continue dreaming and become my best self.
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