Heidi Rabel 2013
A short question and answer interview with Heidi Rabel.

Have you always loved to cook?

Yes. My mother came from a matriarchal family where cooking was perceived as an important creative expression. As a little girl I remember longing to join their clan of good cooks. At our house dinner was not just the evening meal, it was an event that included planned and carefully executed food, lively conversation and lots of guests. I loved everything about it but doing the dishes. Actually I put lots of creative energy into weaseling out of that part.

I remember the morning that my mother told me I was mature enough to make the toast for breakfast. She asked me what kind of jam I thought would be best, reminded me to take the butter out of the refrigerator first so that it would soften, explained timing the toast in relation to the eggs and asked how I thought the toast should be arranged to look best. That morning I was invited into the world of cooks. I clearly remember realizing that it was more fun than almost anything.

How did you become a chef?

Becoming a chef did not enter my mind before I was 45. I taught school after college and then worked in public relations, editing and community activities until my children were in school all day. Then I started full time as a professional fundraiser and did that for 8 years. All that time I was a serious home cook who saved magazines, cookbooks and recipes, and I hung out with others who shared the passion for food.

How did cooking become a profession?

A friend who owned a restaurant asked me if I wanted to be his lunch chef. Cooking professionally had never occurred to me before that day, and initially I didn’t take the offer seriously. After thinking about how fun it might be, I decided to give it a try mainly as a terrific adventure. After the first hour on the job I knew that I was about to change careers, and I did.

How did your food career evolve?

I cooked there for almost a year and then moved into menu and product development because I was not willing to work nights while my kids were still adolescents. I then went to work for Nordstrom in the corporate restaurant division where I stayed for 9 years.

What did you do there?

I developed specialty foods and chocolates for the gift department and developed menu items and recipes for the restaurants and espresso bars. In my wildest dreams I could not have designed a more challenging, diverse or high-energy job. Plus, working with Nordstrom ethic of customer service focused my overall food perception toward the people I cook for instead of on me the cook.

And after Nordstrom?

I spent two years adjusting to filling my own In-Basket by writing the cookbook. It was a very solitary, very fun and overwhelmingly challenging project.

Just one book, are you going to write more?

I did write another book three years ago, but when it was finished I realized it shouldn’t be a book. Besides, I love food and love to write about it, but publishing is another matter; I didn’t love that at all.

Was it a cookbook?

No. It was a series of personal stories about people who provide the great food of the Northwest: farmers, chefs, retailers, artisan cheesemakers, bakers and chocolatiers, foragers, fishermen and philosophers. I worked with a wonderful photographer, learned a great deal researching the book and met some absolutely amazing people. Who knows, maybe it will be a series on the blog. Interested?

Editor’s note: As of summer 2014 Heidi moved onto other projects and is no longer writing for Fresh by Northwest. Click here to retrieve a list of all of her posts.


About Heidi Rabel — 8 Comments

  1. I love the article and Heidi’s way of expressing herself. As I read the questions and answers , I believed that I was in her kitchen hearing her speak. What a friend, cook and teacher she is and I appreciate all that she has taught me. She has more to give and I hope that a great many people join the sight or log, Thank you,

    Noreen R. Frink

  2. Such fun to read about my talented friend. It is unfortunately unusual to be able to put your passion to work! She truly is remarkable – sharing her expertise with others through books and classes and all the while making it so fun.

    Marilyn Richards

  3. I love to read Heidi’s blog because it’s like we are in the kitchen together, planning to cook up something new and exciting. I am amazed to learn of her years at Nordstrom; I guess I lost Heidi during that period and what a remarkable experience that must have been – contributing so much to her professional growth.
    I will continue to look forward to my cooking lessons in Fresh by Northwest!
    Vicky Engel

  4. Heidi – this is an amazing blog. I am soooooooo impressed. I’ll tag this as a favorite. Thank you for doing this. All best, Bob Kitchell

  5. Hi Vicky….I just love this blog as well. I emailed you after hearing about the reunion of your Theta class, but realized that your probably didn’t recognize my address. I have thought of you so much over the years as your were definitely a role model for me in the sorority and beyond. I love to cook and “play with food,” and Heidi and I have shared a close friendship forever. We have shared our love of cooking while she surpassed me in the world of food and other worlds as well. I hope you are well and enjoying life in Medford? Happy 2011, Martha Sampson (marlousam@comcast.net

  6. I’m new to your blog. Bobbette whose vodka pasta recipe you featured, turned me on to it. Can’t believe what I’ve been missing. I won’t be a stranger. Wish you could weasel out her recipe for crisps. Now I know where to come to get inspired for that age old question: What can I make for dinner?

    Trudy Way

  7. So glad you are enjoying Fresh by Northwest. We have recipes that
    will help you to incorporate the fresh ingredients of each season.
    Thanks for reading!

  8. Trudy,
    Thank you for commenting. I will work on Bobbette for the Crisps from Bobbette. I have tried making them several times and produced some really tasty hockey pucks and some really flacid soup wipes!

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