Jamie Lauren, executive chef at Absinthe in San Francisco and a contestant on Season 5 of Bravo’s “Top Chef,” talks about what inspires her, her desire to inspire and how becoming a chef ‘just sort of happened.’
Who has had the biggest influence on you in your life?
It’s not like I had a mentor. I was more influenced by artists — like Madonna — growing up. In terms of my career, there haven’t been that many people who have influenced me.
Is there a golden rule by which you live?
I like to treat people the way I’d like to be treated. I don’t like being an a—— to people. It doesn’t get results.
Where or to whom do you turn to in tough times?
At this point in my life, my girlfriend.
Where do you find inspiration?
All over the place. Going into a restaurant, being inspired by other chefs, looking at cookbooks, going to the market, looking at a list from a local produce farm of what’s in season — that’s how I create a dish. The other day, I was looking at a baked potato, trying to come up with a pizza, and I got inspiration.
Is there something about you that people would find surprising?
I’m a compulsive neat freak and like to organize things. And I’m sensitive.
What would you most want to hear your colleagues say about you?
That I inspire them. That they enjoy working for me.
When did you realize you wanted to cook as a career?
I didn’t, really. It just sort of happened. I was cooking at a restaurant in college, a small restaurant in Massachusetts. I was in college for writing; I wanted to do journalism. The woman I worked for saw something in me and suggested I go to the [Culinary Institute of America]. I went and got a tour. It was like going to the Army or prison. I had a nose ring and earrings; you couldn’t wear jewelry.
What would life be like if you didn’t cook?
I would probably be doing something else, hopefully equally as creative. I couldn’t work at a desk. I’d probably be bored. I’m pretty antsy. I’d probably be traveling and writing.
What was it like being on “Top Chef”?
I was intense. It was hard. You can’t prepare yourself for it. Cooking under time constraints with cameras in your face is superhard. After a while, I forgot the cameras were in my face.
What is your favorite junk food?
Is a hot dog considered junk food? Those and nacho cheese Combos.
What’s coming up for you?
Lots of work. I’m working on a couple of projects that I can’t really talk about.