LAREDO, TX (KGNS) – A Laredo woman is proving she can handle the heat in the kitchen. Not only does she have a passion for cuisine but also to help the future generation.
It’s been a lot of blood, sweat, and tears for Jesse Kuykendall but it has all been worth it
Chef Kirk is a rising star in the culinary world.
In 2021, she gained national attention after winning Food Networks’ competition show “Chopped”.
Her winning dishes included hot dog quesadillas, 30-minute mole, and peanut butter churros.
Her passion and knowledge of Mexican and border cuisine showcases her upbringing in Laredo.
Chef Kuykendall says, “Those simple dishes for me really bring back Laredo, menudo barbacoa. Raul’s Barbacoa.”
Growing up with a mother who cooked, Chef Kirk quickly fell in love with the process but as an adult, the science behind creating a dish was her reason to attend the culinary institute of America in San Antonio.
“After graduating I realized I need to go experience I need to put myself in weird tough situations with some tough chefs. Who will be tough, will tell you the truth? They are old-school chefs who do not care about her feelings. They want food prepared a certain way”, said Kuykendall.
She says there have been moments she didn’t think she was good enough, especially as a newbie chef.
Kuykendall says, “I would call my mom crying, telling her I didn’t know what I was doing. She would always motivate me and tell me it’s all about routine.”
Eventually, she worked her way up and is currently the chef behind hotel Havana’s Ocho Restaurant and just recently opened ‘Milpas.”
However, despite being the showrunner for two locations, there are skills she needs that go beyond the kitchen.
Kuykendall says, “All my cooks are men I want to say 98 percent of them. It has been hard coming up being a female chef. You have to be firm but a little charismatic, but you have to find a balance in your character. I can go old school, but I would lose people.”
But she continues to move forward and break barriers.
Just a few weeks ago, she was nominated for chef of the year for the 2022 culture map San Antonio Tastemaker Awards.
She says, “Ponte las pillas keep marching on, keep marching on and you’ll find yourself.”
As she continues on with her career, Chef Kirk’s next goal is to become a mentor for aspiring chefs.
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