By Avinash Kumar
(Adapted from The Moon, the student newspaper of the Santa Fe campus)
From working in a restaurant at 16 to being at the helm of the St. John’s kitchen, Alexa Rense has risen through the ranks of a male-dominated restaurant industry to work as the Chef Manager of A’viands, the official caterer of St. John’s College, Santa Fe.
Alexa currently oversees all on-campus meal services. Her duties include planning the menu and inspecting the quality of food served. When she arrived at St. John’s, there was a fixed menu cycle in place, but now she has a lot of freedom with the menu cycle. This newfound freedom allows her to put a fresh, unique spin to her recipes.
Her journey was marked by sexism, thanks to an overwhelming male domination in the restaurant industry. Tough times and insults such as “a female didn’t belong in the kitchen” did not stop her from reaching greater heights. She worked for college dining services after a stint at fine dining restaurants. In late May of 2017, she made a rough move from Oregon to New Mexico, although she now feels happy with the move, saying that Santa Fe is a “great place.”
On international food, Alexa is leading the charge in representing more of the world’s cuisines. “Everyone should feel included in every meal,” she said about her plans to proliferate international food options. As a testimony to this claim, the dining hall now provides more food options from India and West Africa.
Food sourcing has been another priority for Alexa’s team. Currently, A’viands obtains all of its ingredients from Sysco, the largest supplier for restaurants on the West Coast, against her preference to insource them and “make everything from scratch.”
She has enjoyed immense popularity among the student population. Many feel that since Alexa’s “regime” began, the food quality has improved drastically. Most expect this trend to continue.
Said Alexa, “I love it when anyone comes and talks to me in the kitchen. Anyone can come and poke their head in the kitchen and say “‘hi.’”