Brian Fisher (BF): I read that you were addicted to Julia Child reruns and that you received a knife from your uncle (not uncle, Grandfather, Julian Rodriguez) when you turned 8. Did you carry your love for food and the kitchen to Westtown?
Celina Tio (CT): Yes, I loved working with Ernie Schoch in the kitchen. I always chose the kitchen for my work project : ) I also always looked forward to the weekend when my dad would talk my roommate and me to Chinatown or make us Chinese fish soup during open dorms.
BF: Did Westtown nurture/influence/shape your thinking about cooking/pursuing cooking as a career?
CT: Westtown encouraged everyone to pursue their passions. Though they didn’t have any culinary programs, I was never discouraged from cooking or going for anything I wanted to do. I do remember I probably had the best fudge and pie dough of anyone in my middle school home-ec. class : )
BF: When did you realize the you could make cooking/food a serious career pursuit?
CT: I never thought that I couldn’t make it a full time career. Julia Child was on TV doing it. I later realized that it wasn’t really common for women to be in professional kitchens. But I loved it anyway. I just had to work hard to convince people to give me a chance
BF: In kitchens cooks are judged on their work. Did you ever feel that you needed to outwork and prove yourself in the kitchen because of either your educational background or being a woman?
CT: Yes, I did feel that I had to work harder to prove myself in the beginning of any position, but, once I did, the playing field was back to level. I’m a woman that doesn’t feel like my whole career has been slighted because it is male dominated. It is what it is. You are (partly) in control of your own destiny – make it what you want!
BF: What’s the craziest mistake you’ve ever made in the kitchen that you can now laugh at?
CT: I put a mixing bowl with a plastic bottom on a burner to warm it and caused fire (you’ll see, not used to plastic covered bowls : )
BF: What pieces of your Westtown experience do you use every day?
CT: Embracing, appreciating and loving diversity!
BF: What’s the best thing/what do you enjoy most about going to work in the kitchen every day?
CT: Teaching people that are craving to learn. But most importantly, in the kitchen, every day is a new day. You get to start fresh every day!
BF: What advice do you give young cooks?
CT: Never lose your passion! Always keep learning, never think you know everything. If you do, then you’re stagnant and that’s something you never want to be!
Ms. Tio is the chef/owner of Kansas City’s Julian.