Chef Barbie Marshall has been a professional in the culinary industry since the young age of 14, though she’d been cooking since age 5. While working at catering halls and restaurants through school, she was able to graduate from Johnson and Wales University in Norfolk, Virginia. Chef Marshall completed her culinary externship and was hired at Todd Jurich’s Bistro, where she began researching local sustainable ingredients. This work led her to a new position at Green Meadow Farm in Pennsylvania, where her culinary and farming experiences, combined with the fact that she often uses ingredients she has grown herself in her dishes, contributed to her being called The Farming Chef. She appeared on Hell’s Kitchen in 2012 with Chef Gordon Ramsay, where she finished a semifinalist, and has since been doing celebrity chef appearances and demonstrations. Chef Barbie was kind enough to share some of her knowledge and experiences in order to inspire our readers. Below, find our interview with the chef.
1. What made you decide to become a chef?
I decided to become a chef because I have always loved food and cooking. Instead of watching Saturday morning cartoons, I was watching cooking shows on PBS. When it was time for me to invest in myself for college I thought it would be great to do something I loved.
2. What education or experience would you recommend for aspiring chefs?
I recommend aspiring chefs start by going to culinary school. You’re not going to get all the information you need from culinary school but you will have a great foundation. After you invest in your education, go work in the type of establishment under the type of chef you want to become. Don’t go work in a diner, if you want to become a fine dining chef.
3. Can you tell us a little about your work in sustainable foods that led to you becoming a farmer at Green Meadow Farm?
Learning about sustainable foods started at home. I was the youngest and baby by 12 years so I spent lots of alone time with Mom. Every weekend she was shopping for the week at Farmer’s Markets and Butcher Shops. In the summer, we’d pile into the car and come into Lancaster County to actually go to the farms. Mom taught me to ask all the right questions and established the ground work. While in culinary school I started a research project to learn about Sustainable vs. Organic and Traditional vs. Conventional Farming. It was then that I decided to go work for restaurants that had a commitment to using small local farms.
A decade later I moved back to Philadelphia and soon after met Farmer Ian Brendle of Green Meadow Farm. I started slowly, seeding flats in the greenhouses in the late winter, to eventually transplanting the seedlings into the ground and harvesting the vegetables. Farmer Glenn Brendle, Ian’s partner and dad, was in a terrible car accident one day and asked that I step in for him while he recovered. None of us knew it would be 3 years but the opportunity to experience food from soil to plate is priceless.
4. What did you take away from your experience on Hell’s Kitchen?
One day I was explaining to my kids the importance of getting good grades, giving them the college talk and somehow the conversation wound up with me being dared to go on Hell’s Kitchen. I struck up a deal with them, if I tried out for HK, they had to try to do everything and anything in life.
Hell’s Kitchen was a wonderful opportunity to work with Chef Gordon Ramsay and his team professionally but having the opportunity to inspire the kids through it was priceless.
5. Do you see new dining trends surfacing?
Yes, people are becoming more aware of their ingredients and becoming more sustainable which is driving chefs and restaurants to keep up with their demands and I love it!
6. What fabric and style of chef uniform do you enjoy wearing the most?
I enjoy wearing my Mesh fabric Style #86717 jacket (Short Sleeve Chef Coat with Side Mesh Panels) the most not only because of how cool it keeps me, it also has a beautiful fit for my size.
7. Do you enjoy dining out on your free time?
Absolutely, dining out and traveling combined are my favorite free time activities! You never know when or where an inspiring dish will come from.
8. Do you try to experience your competitors’ food?
I try to experience as much food as I possibly can, prepared as many ways as I can get it. If I am competing, I definitely want to try what I am up against.
9. Where do your ideas for new recipes come from?
I get ideas from everywhere I possibly can! Some of my recipes are modified family recipes that have been passed down and some are from places I’ve traveled. While I was farming many recipes were developed based on what was harvested that day.
10. Do you think it is important to visit the markets rather than just have standard orders?
Absolutely, but I would take it a step further and actually visit the farms also. I like to be able to tell my diners that I was there, that I saw the conditions their ingredients were grown or raised in with my own eyes.
11. How do you test a new recipe before putting it on the permanent menu?
First I have to say, I don’t have a permanent menu. I cook with the seasons so everything isn’t always available all year round. Testing is a long process; first I develop the concept and make it for myself. The next step is preparing for a test group. I evaluate my group’s feedback and make adjustments if necessary.
12. Do you notice any growing resistance to the unhealthier dishes?
I think we will always have a place for our unhealthy guilty pleasures. What I am noticing more than a resistance to unhealthy dishes is a resistance to unhealthy ingredients and processed foods.
13. What is your advice for planning a menu for a new restaurant?
My advice for planning a menu for a new restaurant is to plan it properly for your demographics and staff. Don’t make your food so complicated that your diners can’t see your vision on the plate and your staff can’t execute it. Also make sure your menu fits your theme. It has to make sense.
14. Can you offer some advice for aspiring chefs?
My advice to aspiring chefs is to be committed and plan on working long, hard hours. We work while everyone else is at the party. It’s not a Monday-Friday 9-5 career so if that is what you are looking for, it won’t be for you.
15. Would you please send us a recipe?
As featured on the Celebrity Chef Stage in the Grand Market of the 2013 Atlantic City Food & Wine Festival
Pan Seared New York Strip Steaks:
- 2-6 ounce boneless New York Strip Steaks
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- 1 T Olive Oil
Preheat a large sauté pan over medium High heat.
Season steaks with salt and pepper. Add the oil to the preheated pan.
Sear the steaks on all sides. 7 minutes for medium rare.
Allow meat to rest while you make the salad.
Crab, Corn and Tomato Salad:
- 2 ears of corn, steamed, cooled and cut from the cob
- 1 large ripe tomato, cored and diced
- 4 ounces Lump Crab Meat
- 2 T red onion, minced
- 1 T fresh chives, minced
- 1 T White Balsamic Vinegar
- 2 T Meyer Lemon Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients, tossing gently. Slice steak and serve over the salad.Follow Chef Barbie Marshall on Facebook.com/FarmingChef, Twitter and Instagram @BarbieMarshall, and subscribe to ChefBarbie.com for more recipes.