Women’s History Month: Chef Erica

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day (March 8), we sat down with some of the incredible women who make up the Parkhurst Dining team. We thank these women for sharing their authentic selves with us, and feel so honored to have them on our team.

What do International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month mean to you?  

They mean recognizing the contribution that women have had in history, society, and their accomplishments. It’s about giving back. 

Who are the women that have the most impact in your life?  

My grandmother raised me until I was about 8 – she was the person for everything. Even after she moved away, she was my support, my go-to. 

What gives you the greatest amount of pride in your profession? 

Having people enjoy what I do. Being a chef and having people say that something is delicious is a wonderful, wonderful thing that comes with a sense of pride and accomplishment.

How did you get started in the industry?

My first job was when I was 15 as a banquet server, and they would always pull the servers into prep work. From then, I was always working in kitchens and it was always something I was drawn to – I can’t imagine not being in this industry in some capacity. 

I have a double bachelor’s degree in political science and history, but when I graduated, I just ended up sticking with my culinary passions! Life constantly gives you different opportunities, to further yourself and your career, and to gain new experiences. You should never limit yourself! After almost 20 years in the industry, I’ve found there’s always room for growth – I just keep trying and doing my best. 

Where do you get inspiration from, whether personally or professionally? 

Professionally, I am very big on feedback from my guests, team members, and clients. 

Personally, I go into research rabbit holes (there’s my inner history major) on Google – like, 2 hours, 30 different windows, looking up new recipes, etc. I love going off on tangents, even though I should be in bed because I get up at 4:30 in the morning! I’m also lucky to have a bunch of friends in the industry both locally and abroad, we touch base occasionally and love to share ideas. 

Inspiration can definitely come from facing a challenge or making the best of limitations– what can I use, what do I have? What’s in season? 

What advice would you give to someone new in your field? 

Don’t let stagnation rule your life. Just because something has always been done some way, there is always room for change and improvement. Ask WHY – you’re allowed to question things, and I tell my whole team that! Question things, expect different opinions, be open – life is nothing but a giant curveball. That’s how you get excitement. 

If you were a food, what would you be?  

Sandwich – there are so many differing kinds, and infinite combinations! Infinite possibilities. Plus, they can be on anything! Have you ever seen a Pickle Reuben? 

What do you do when you need a confidence boost? 

My husband is my biggest cheerleader. He says, ‘You got this, you’ll be fine!’

When do you feel most at home in your skin? 

In the kitchen. Home is home – with family. Recipe testing, even in my own time, when I’m truly experimenting, and trying new things, and being creative – just TRYING. 

During stressful times, how do you lead? 

I lead by example – if everyone is stressed out, I’ll be elbow-to-elbow to support them so that everyone can accelerate. Life/work situations can sometimes feel like quicksand, so assessing the issue and identifying solutions is important, along with making an action plan – and we always address underlying issues after the fact. 

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