Out Of The Office and Into The Fire: Chef Meredith Dornin

Female chef

Meredith always wanted to be a chef, but she bent to pressures after high school and pursued a traditional four-year degree instead. “I got my bachelor’s degree and then worked at a few less than inspiring office jobs before I got my act together and realized that if I didn’t challenge myself and find out about culinary school, I was going to continue working in an office which I emphatically did not want to do.” She made the leap and decided to stop wondering, “What if?” and started attending the Culinary Arts Program at Santa Barbara City College.

Culinary school was a perfect match. “I like getting a well-rounded education; learning the basics first and then building on them,” she says. Now she works for a nutritionist’s meal delivery service as the head cook. “I help create the weekly menus and research for new recipe ideas,” she says with enthusiasm. “The service follows specific dietary guidelines and it’s an interesting challenge trying to find meals that fit into the requirements. Sometimes I really have to think about how to turn a traditional dish into something that works with the system. I feel great when I can pull it off.”

As much as she loves her current job, she still has dreams. “Eventually, I’d like to move onto recipe testing or editing cook books. I earned my first degree in English and I have a soft spot for food writing,” she says wistfully.

When asked what tips she’d give to a budding chef and prospective culinary student, she says, “I would tell them to think about what they want to ultimately do and if a degree would help them reach that goal. If you excel in school than culinary school can be great for you.” But she urges caution to new graduates. “People need to work in a kitchen too. A lot of graduates think that because they have a degree, they are experts in cooking which isn’t true. Going to school can be a great learning tool, but one needs to have back of the house experience as well.”