The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - 47

BRINGING BALANCE TO THE KITCHEN

hard ones. In her current position as sous chef at Bloom Restaurant
and Wine Bar, Steuber-Kaczmarski says she's found everything she
loves about working in restaurants.
She loves the open kitchen which creates a "trifecta" work space of
the counter, service and food prep; she loves executive chef and owner
Nathan Sloan's commitment to changing the wasteful mentality of
the restaurant culture; and she believes Bloom's approach to food and
dining is contributing a greater good to the community.
"I've always wanted to make sure what I'm doing is benefitting
the community," says Steuber-Kaczmarski. "I definitely recognize
this with [Bloom]."
Mehrkens, too, has always approached her career with an eye
for continual learning and doing meaningful work. Through one
of her many school connections, Mehrkens was approached by the
executive chef at Carilion, asking if she'd ever considered working
in a hospital setting.
At first, Mehrkens was turned off by the idea, admitting she had
preconceived notions about health care food. Still, she decided to try
it, and discovered all her preconceived notions were wrong.
"My role as chef [in the hospital setting] operates on a whole
different level," says Mehrkens, who has since transitioned to the
executive chef position at LewisGale Montgomery.
She explains there is special knowledge and creativity involved
in menu planning to accommodate the multitude of special diets.
Not only this, but her connection as a chef to her "customer"-

TheRoanoker.com

the individual patient-is an entirely unique experience. Just like
physicians, Mehrkens and her team do rounds, visiting rooms and
talking to patients about their meals.
"It can be emotional," says Mehrkens, describing the extreme
situations she and her team have faced, from new mothers to those
with weeks left to live. It sheds a new light on the role of the chef
for preparing food that nourishes both body and soul.
While both chefs love their current roles in the kitchen, both
have future aspirations. Steuber-Kaczmarski says she'd love to find
an avenue for inspiring people-especially children-to become
interested in learning to cook. Mehrkens is hoping to pursue her
master's degree through the Culinary Institute of America and
eventually move into a directorship position. Both of them would
love for more women to join their ranks.
"It's always nice to have a couple of women in the kitchen," says
Steuber-Kaczmarski. "Because there are so many men, one or two
women can make a huge difference. They bring a balance, and they
bring it immediately ... the kitchen should feel like a family; we
should help one another out. Women bring that extra dimension and
dynamic."
"I tell women of any age, don't be intimidated," says Mehrkens. "Yes,
it's a male dominated profession, but I've always found great support
here [in the Valley]. Also, there's a whole world out there, not just
restaurants. There are so many avenues that offer work-life balance and
still let you be a chef and do something meaningful as a woman." I

MARCH/APRIL 2020 47


http://carilionclinic.org/skincare http://www.TheRoanoker.com

The Roanoker - March/April 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Roanoker - March/April 2020

The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - Intro
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - Cover1
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - Cover2
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - 3
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - 4
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - 5
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The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - Cover3
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - Cover4
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