Chef Jeana Marie
welcome, and thank you for being here.
I remember this home video my family had of me, I was maybe 7 years old. Imagine me, a silly looking kid gazing up excitedly at the old video camera as my parents ask me what I want for Christmas. Confidently, little Jeana replies, “A KITCHEN!” That year under the tree was a Fisher-Price kitchen with all the acutumonts. This beautiful kitchen was loaded with a two-burner station, a double-stacked oven, and of course a two-compartment sink; not quite up to code, but I was a rule breaker back then. The gifts to follow were full of the most vibrant plastic vegetables you could have sourced, as you know the plastic farm industry was booming in California at the time. It even came with little mini french fries that could come out of their red sleeve, a burger that could be put together in a variety of different ways with the tear of the velcro; I was inspired. I designed a sign to hang outside my door, “Jeana’s Citchen.” It was a sign even hipster cafes would deem too sloppy to display (I was never good at spelling). My ‘citchen’s’ daily menu would feature anything from tater tot casserole to the famous “Cracker Rice” my family loves to tease me about. In their defense I did make them rice filled with chunks of hotdogs topped with, you guessed it: crackers. It was my dream.
Most great chefs stumble upon an elderly family member in the kitchen and fall in love with the smells, the flavors, and boom: talent is born. For me, however, my plastic garden is what brought me that inspiration. Though it was a combination of carbs filled with air and fake canned sauces, I was falling in love. Creating in my pretend kitchen gave me the ability to escape the harsh realities of life. I found myself chasing that escape as I got older. Growing up, I drowned myself in culinary daydreaming. I always came up with new ideas for meals or envisioned myself in a variety of roles in the kitchen. Then I found myself actually in real kitchens! Each kitchen experience drove me deeper into a passion for cooking, and I continued to take every opportunity to prove myself. Creating beautiful food was not only my masterpiece but was my comfort. Cooking was there when I was alone, when I was broken, and when I was scared. Despite anything negative going on, I would close my eyes and know that the real “Jeana’s Citchen” was never too far out of reach, and that feeling was pure joy.
I have worked from dishwasher to line cook, I have fought the battles of ticket machines and discovered endless ways to clean a kitchen. I would rather listen to the sounds of a kitchen in full swing than my favorite song. The smells, good and bad, fill me with more comfort than the best smelling candle. Don’t even get me started on what it is like being a part of a team, because that's almost better than my own family. I wear my burns like badges. I am proud of where I am, and what I am made of. I know I have found an industry that I want to be in forever. I also know the chase and hunger for knowledge and experience will never be fulfilled. I will always want more. I will always try new things, and you can bet I will never stop exploring the culinary world, pig heads and all.