March 12, 2013 -
Q+A with Spice Sous Chef, Rebecca Traxler
Rebecca may have acquired her craft working long hours in some of Cleveland’s top kitchens…but she got a head start in her family’s kitchen, standing alongside her mom when she could barely see over the countertop! If that doesn’t melt your heart, maybe this bit of awesomeness will – Rebecca grew up on a blueberry farm. That’s bonus points in our book.
Rebecca believes that you always take out what you put in. Hard work has led her to be Spice Kitchen + Bar’s Sous Chef, and she’s an important part of what makes the end product so sensational.
Q. You’ve worked in some pretty great kitchens in your career. What’s different about working in the Spice kitchen? What’s a typical day like?
A. As a chef you strive to put the best food out, but it’s hard when you don’t have the best ingredients. It’s so nice to have access to fresh-picked fruits and vegetables, because it makes the food that much better. Typically, I work the line side-by-side with Executive Chef Brandon (Walukas). It’s good team-building for all of us. Everyone is working the same – very hard.
Every day changes so drastically at Spice. One day you’re working at a Plated Landscape dinner and the next you’re picking your own produce to throw in a salad. I’ve never worked anywhere like this. The continuous change pushes you to work harder and better.
Q. Many of your products are crafted from scratch. Tell us about that! What are some of the house favorites?
A. Everything that we do is from scratch, but our Kombucha is amazing and I think everyone else would agree. We do rotating cocktails with it. The Grape-Apple Kombucha is my favorite. We use local apples from Rittman Orchard and grapes that have been growing right here behind the parking lot! It’s nice that we can feature something on our menu that was there before we even moved in.
We also do a lot of beer and wine-based vinegars at Spice. My love for fermentation has really grown since I started working here. I get a lot of inspiration from Sandor Katz – he’s got a wild fermentation book. I went to his fermentation workshop back in 2009 at Oberlin College*. Anyone can pump co2 into a container, but I prefer the natural, slow way. It’s become my passion to create my own products from scratch through a lot of reading and research.
Q. As an artisan chef, what other sources of inspiration do you draw from?
A. Reading and researching is definitely my biggest source of inspiration. My house is full of cookbooks. The Internet is also a nice shortcut, but I prefer sitting down with a stack of cookbooks and digging through them to come up with my own recipes.
Q. Did you ever have a moment when you realized that you were meant to be a chef? If you weren’t doing this, what else would you be doing?
A. I blame and love my mom for being a chef. She’d always take the time to teach me. I would stand on a stool and we’d make breads, pastas and all sorts of things. I’ve known since then that I wanted to be a chef. It’s really why I am where I am today. If I weren’t doing this, I’d have some aspirations to get back into farming.
Editor’s note: Sandor Katz continues to do wild fermentation clinics across the region, so be sure to check one out before your next pickling adventure. Becca will join him in Oberlin on March 12th, but he’ll also make an appearance at the Root Cafe on March 14th.