Latinos on the Rise: Meet Chef Robyn Almodovar

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It only took a thirty-minute chat with Chef Robyn Almodovar, before I felt very hungry and had the distinct feeling I’d definitely let this powerhouse young woman cook anything she wanted to for me. The 32-year old, self-proclaimed “triple threat—lesbian, Latina, and woman” Brooklyn native showed the same confidence when she willingly stepped up to challenge the very scary Chef Gordon Ramsey in the 10th season of the TV show Hell’s Kitchen.

Almodovar says she’d always wanted to be on the TV show, and was thrilled when a few months after the casting, she got the call to come to LA for the latest season.  She was psyched when her signature Striped Bass dish won the ladies team their first point in Episode One. In the end, she walked away the as the top sixth contestant on the show. Admitting she got caught up in a lot of b***sh*t on the show, she believes the producers of the show ultimately wanted a different kind of contestant.

Almodovar is a very focused and driven individual. Since the day I met her, you could see it in her eyes. If you watched her on Hell's Kitchen you know she would not go down without a fight. And her food, well it speaks for itself.

— Sef Gonzalez, a well-respected South Florida food blogger and chef

An accomplished chef at such a young age, she says she grew up on rice and beans due to her Puerto Rican background, but says her Italian mother cooks better than most Puerto Ricans. She added that she found her calling while at home watching an infomercial about the Le Cordon Bleu Institute.

“I was in Cosmetology School at the time. But I saw that commercial so many times, I finally decided it must be God or too much wine, but whatever it was a sign, and I quit Cosmetology and got into cooking. I graduated from Le Cordon Bleu a year later,” Almodovar says.

One break-up and a cool party later, she landed in Fort Lauderdale and began an internship at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66.  Almodovar says that starting at the bottom and working her way up is the best way to learn and see how the real operation of any restaurant works. Soon she an became executive chef, a private yacht chef, and a personal celebrity chef—working with such biggies as Timbaland, Travis McCoy of Gym Class Heroes, and the cast and crew of Ugly Betty.

Almodovar is an opinionated, passionate, and gifted culinarian with an array of creative ideas up her chef coat’s sleeve. The latest is her food truck, Palate Party. Besides creating what she calls “refined and gourmet street food” that is a “party in your mouth” due to her cross-cultural upbringing, her truck is sometimes outfitted with a DJ and on the roof a break-dancer.

“Almodovar is a very focused and driven individual. Since the day I met her, you could see it in her eyes. If you watched her on Hell's Kitchen you know she would not go down without a fight. And her food, well it speaks for itself,"  Sef Gonzalez, a well-respected South Florida food blogger and chef, known for his posts about unique food experiences. Gonzalez is also the owner of the food truck Burger Beast. "She's a great Chef with a bunch of cooking skills to back up her ever-growing popularity, that's the kind of party I like to attend."

Describing the way she runs her food truck sounds eerily familiar to the one Chef Ramsay.

“I’ve been known to make my staff make a sandwich over several times before I send it out to a customer. If it takes them too long, I’ll threaten to dock their pay. I’m a small business owner, it has to be done right," she said. "I made my wife cry when she’s cooked for me on the truck once.  I’m a firecracker no doubt. But I believe a successful chef needs to have consistency, quality, and efficiency—all things I’m about and learned from Chef Ramsay. To be uncompromising."

With statistics about how few women chefs there are, no wonder Almodovar feels she has to be three times as good. Only 1 percent of Michelin starred restaurants have women chefs. The organization Women Chefs & Restaurateurs reports that only 10 percent of U.S. executive-level chefs are women. Almodovar believes women can be the strongest backbone in any kitchen. She admits she and many women are emotional, but says it adds to their food.

“You want food cooked by someone that doesn’t give a sh*t? Men often don’t have enough emotion,” Almodovar says.