How Chef Margaret Thompson went from an Executive Chef to a Yogi Chef
This is Chef Margaret Thompson, at home, contemplating restaurant names and themes (photo by Christina Thompson 2012).
From a young age, Chef Margaret Thompson was in the kitchen. She started off her cooking and baking life learning from her grandmothers. “They taught me Italian, Polish, and good old down-home cooking and baking,” she said. She also could be found in front of the TV mesmerized by the cooking styles of Ms. Julia Childs, the Galloping Gourmet, and Jacques Pepin.
At age 35, she attended the Riverside Culinary Academy in Riverside, California for a degree in Asian Culinary Arts. She fed her family delicious cuisine from Japan, India, Thailand, China, and Indonesia, just to name a few. “I like cooking Japanese dishes because Japanese cuisine is all about the presentation. Sukiyaki is the best example of this,” Margaret said. Then at age 46, she went on vacation to Europe and attended a cooking school in Sorrento, Italy to learn more traditional Italian cooking.
When she was living in a country club with her family, a neighbor came to a block party where Margaret made various scrumptious desserts. The neighbor approached Margaret to make her more desserts that she could take with her when she went to doctor’s offices (she was a Pharmaceutical Representative). “This inspired me to start work on my dream, owning a tearoom. I felt that I should go to a prominent school where I could get a professional reputation. That school for me was the French Culinary School in New York City for a Master of Pastry Arts,” she said.
While she was attending school, she studied under one of her childhood idles, Chef Jacques Pepin. “I remember at school, we were to speak French. Jacques and I passed in the stairwell while I was carrying a tray a pastries. He asked me in French for a pastry. I answered him in Italian and got scolded,” she said. She also studied under Chef Jacques Torres and Chef Andre Sultner.
Right out of school, she started work at the Green-up Café in Covington, Kentucky. “It was brand new restaurant that I helped Chef Jean-Robert open,” Margaret said. Soon after that she saw a fun opportunity to join the culinary staff of Norwegian Cruise Lines North America located out of Hawaii as a pastry chef. “It wasn’t as fun as I thought,” she said. She came home and was approached by the Cincinnatian Hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio, to be their Executive Pastry Chef. This also proved to be a disaster for her. “I worked 16-20 hours a day, seven days a week with people who did not have the best moral standards. I would compare it to working on that show, “Hell’s Kitchen,”” Chef Margaret said.
“I believe my experience at the Cincinnatian Hotel fully expresses my belief that negative energy put into food by chefs and manufacturers creates negative people,” she said. This prompted her to leave the Cincinnatian and become a private chef.
Does she have any way of maintaining peace amongst the chaos of the kitchen? “I have been practicing Kundalini Yoga (not that pretzel yoga, more based in creative, positive energy for the body, mind, and spirit) for ten years. My friends suggested that I become a yoga instructor because they thought that I would be good at it. I went to New Mexico for a month and became a Yogi at the Ashram of Yogi Bhujan.”
She has been a Yogi Chef for three years now. Chef Margret still wants a tearoom, but has been constantly rethinking its concept. She would like to use locally grown and sustainable meat, poultry, and produce items. She hopes to eventually find a nice big piece of property to grow some of these items herself. “I want to have enough room in my restaurant to teach culinary classes, as teaching has always been one of my greatest passions. It would be great to combine the two biggest loves in my life, but for now I will do what I can with My Chef Mom on Facebook.”