The professional kitchen. It can be hot and intense. A pressure-packed environment where speed is key and precision is paramount. It takes a special individual to excel in this place. Someone who is passionate, determined and fearless. Someone like Rebekah Dickson.
At just 24-years-old, Dickson is a rising star. A sous chef at the acclaimed Goldfinch Tavern in the Four Seasons Hotel. It's the latest stop in a coast-to-coast culinary journey that began in rural Indiana.
"One of my dance instructors, her brother was a culinary instructor at the technical school, and from the age of 10 he was telling me 'oh it's a great industry'," said Dickson. "And I was like you know what, this sounds like a lot of creative freedom and you get to wear pajamas all day. You can't beat that."
Rebekah started working in professional kitchens in high school, starting as a dishwasher and working her way up to line cook. Even early on, Dickson's talent was undeniable. But at that time, in the restaurant industry, sometimes talent wasn't enough.
"When I first got started back in the early 2000's [professional kitchens] were very male prominent and they still are in the Midwest. And I grew up in the kitchens knowing that it was probably going to be hard for me to move up," explained Dickson. My father prepared me, because he's a landscaper. [He told me] they're not going to like that you're in there, and once you're in a position of management they're not going to like listening to you. So I grew up knowing what I was getting into."
Undaunted, Dickson left behind the closed-minded kitchens of her youth for culinary school in upstate New York, then a gig at the Four Seasons in Vail, before rising up the ranks at Goldfinch. That the kitchen staff at the restaurant is 50% female is a credit to executive chef Joe Ritchie.
"I think we have a responsibility as chefs to make our job look appealing to all the chefs who work for us," said Ritchie.
"When [Joe] hires people he doesn't look like 'oh you're a man', 'you're a woman'. He takes into account your experience level and is like 'well what are you going to bring to our team?'," added Dickson.
One of the skills Rebekah brings to her team is a passion for creating dishes for those with restrictive diets.
"My goal has always been when I put a dish in front of someone they're not like 'Oh this is vegan'. I want to put a dish in front of someone and they go 'Wow! This is a really good plate of food'," explained Dickson
On November 16th, Dickson will showcase her talent alongside nine other female powerhouses at the annual 'The Best Chefs You've Never Heard Of' event. Naturally her dishes are vegan, but these are vegetables like you've never seen or tasted before.
For her first bite, Rebekah is serving a savory pumpkin parfait. Pumpkin mousse with a hazelnut ricotta, topped with pumpkin seed crumble. Her second dish is a daikon 'scallop', served over roasted delicata squash with an 18-hour vegetable demi-glace. (I got the chance to try the daikon scallops when I visited Dickson at Goldfinch Tavern, and they are absolutely delicious!)
The event will also feature Martha De Leon from Cafe Juanita, JuneBaby's Kaylah Thomas and BJ Besnick of The Walrus and the Carpenter, among a host of other culinary talents. It's a chance to celebrate Seattle's up-and-coming female chefs and support a fantastic cause.
Proceeds from the event benefit Northwest Harvest.