Nov/Dec
2017

Hot Chef

Written by By Dawn Sanborn Photography by Dawn Sanborn Photography
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Forager’s female chefs talk about food and the funny side of the kitchen.

KARI DAVI GREW UP IN RAWLINS, WYOMING AND MOVED TO ROCHESTER IN SEPTEMBER 2015. HER AUNT, WHO LIVES HERE, TOLD HER HOW THE FOOD SCENE HAS BEEN GROWING IN ROCHESTER, SO SHE CAME TO BE A PART OF IT. SHE INTENDS TO REMAIN HERE FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS. 

KARI’S ROAD TO BECOMING A CHEF

Kari has known she wanted to be a chef since the time she was 18. She was already a line cook and thought, “I could spend the rest of my life in a kitchen.” She set off to get her training in line cooking, prepping ingredients and assembling dishes according to restaurant recipes and specifications. She spent two years training in Wyoming, followed by attending the Art Institute of Tucson.

 

Kari gets most of her inspiration for cooking from her family, especially her father. “My dad has always cooked a lot. I am always trying to make food that would impress my parents.” While Kari was growing up, her parents had a garden, so fresh vegetables were always ready and available. Kari claims she was a child who ate her veggies. “Nothing is better than fresh veggies,” she states. People who cook farm-to-table meals, much like her parents, are inspiring to her as well. “I see myself doing more and more farm-to-table work.”

PB&J IS THE WAY

Now that we mention fresh veggies, you would assume she still eats a ton of veggies. But being a chef and cooking all day for others tends to send some chefs to reach for the easy button, and Kari is no different. “I eat peanut butter and jelly on the regular, but I like to cook all sorts of things at home.” 

“The only food I don’t like that much is green bell pepper. They are a show stealer. They overpower most flavors,” Kari explains. If Kari had just one last meal, or as Anthony Bourdain calls it, “your death row meal,” she wouldn’t be able to decide. “My last dinner would have to be like 15 courses ‘cause I couldn’t choose just one thing!”

THE FUNNY SIDE OF THE KITCHEN

“When I was in the seventh grade, I was doing a report on Finland and decided to cook some food from there. I cooked the worst soup of my life. It had fish in it (and) stunk up the whole house. We had a bunch of people over to try my cooking too. They all were real nice and tried it even though it smelled and tasted horrible,” Kari shares. Even if one of her first experiences with fish didn’t turn out, that hasn’t kept her from trying to master it. Her favorite things to cook with are fish and wild game. “Mushrooms are my absolute favorite. They are magical. So many tastes and textures!” she exclaims.

Chefs have funny stories to tell from behind the scenes in the kitchen, and Kari has a good one.  “The first funny kitchen memory that comes to mind is when one of the young guys was making pico de gallo and he tried to squeeze a whole lime. He just had no idea you had to cut it first. Everyone gathered around to have a chuckle.” You learn something new every day in the kitchen, and if you are a wannabe chef, Kari has some great advice. “Nothing is out of your reach. If you want to eat it you can make it. YouTube is great for this.”  

JESS IRHKE 

IN THE BEGINNING

Jess Irhke was born in Dover, Minnesota and moved to Montana in the late 90s. She wanted to make a living working as a chef, but living in Montana during a difficult economy was tough, so she decided to “move home and make some money. I came back to Dover/Rochester after traveling and realized this was my passion while (I was) working at Famous Dave’s. All I wanted to do was cook, and everything else became less important.”

Jess’ experiences as a chef include Yellowstone National Park, University of Montana and working with her father. “As a little girl my father owned a restaurant so I was peeling onions and serving coffee wearing an ‘I’m the boss’ t-shirt.” At 16 or 17, her dad made her learn how to cook. She was already doing dishes and waiting tables, so it was the last thing to learn. 

IN THE LONG RUN

Jess’ five-year plan is to still be “raging at Forager, throwing lots of parties!” After all, when you are a catering chef, you are the life of the party. What’s her 10-year plan? “Getting ready for the next adventure!” She really enjoys her work because of “the wonderful life it has given me. You can cook anywhere, for everyone, always! The smile and reaction you can put on people’s faces through food is the best.” She would love to retire and own a bed and breakfast someday.  

FAVORITE AND LEAST LIKED FOODS

Jess says, “Morel mushrooms: This is a food that really brings a community together like no other.”  When growing up she had a little aversion to pickled beets and cooked carrots. Jess loves gardening, outdoor activities, crafting and travel. She offers this advice for anyone who wants to try their hand at cooking: “Never stop experimenting; new ingredients, new recipes—explore! Food is an adventure.” And with her beloved chef knife and cutting board, “I do love the food processor/Robot Coupe too,” Jess creates amazing dishes and can work with anyone and their dietary needs with her catering choices. 

Try all of Jess and Kari’s creativity and delicious food at Forager Brewing Company located in the Kutzky neighborhood, 1005 6th Street NW, Rochester.  Phone: 507-258-7490. Take a look at all Forager has to offer at foragerbrewery.com

 


Dawn Sanborn shares in the love of food like all our featured chefs, and can be found making everything from apple pie to zucchini pie (yes, zucchini pie, trust her).

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