Mikaela Reuben; Vancouver and Los Angeles; @mikaelareuben
Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?
I am a healthy chef, trained in making healthy food taste good! I cook on movie sets, consult for restaurants and collaborate with brands designing meal plans and recipes.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I did my undergrad in kinesiology at University of Victoria and I started a masters in physiotherapy at the University of British Columbia, even though I knew it wasn’t for me. Since then, I’ve taken holistic health coaching courses, raw chef training and many international cuisine courses but the bulk of my food training was when I mentored privately under late celebrity chef Wayne Forman who owned Hollywood Catering.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
I worked as a server. The money in waitressing allowed me to travel and learn about other food and cultures so I stuck with it.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
Food was always my passion but I was stuck in kinesiology so I took a break, moved to Maui and decided to write a cookbook. A friend who was with me told me she knew of a house where we could shoot food pictures that just happened to be rented by Owen Wilson, and that’s when I met chef Wayne Forman. We started talking, he tried my food and liked my take on cooking. It was a fluke meeting him and he introduced me to a career I didn’t even know existed!
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
I had a ton of job momentum but I was denied a U.S. Visa and I had to start building a career in Canada when the industry wasn’t as established. I was serving on the side and Ben Stiller heard about me through word-of-mouth, hired me and I was able to make the same wage I would get in the States, which meant I could quit all my side jobs. I realized I could survive doing this in Canada if I hustled and made it work.
What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?
Working for myself has been a struggle since, at the beginning, I was wearing too many hats. My job is contractual so when I’m onsite I barely have a chance to breathe; when I’m offsite my tendency is to want to relax and other components of my business can fall by the wayside. I’ve since hired a great team to fill in for what I lack and make up for my weaknesses.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
Never doubt your unique abilities but know there is room to grow. Be prepared to work hard for what you want and ALWAYS be genuine—so many of my successes truly came from treating people with respect.
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?
Finish what you start. Because I think people have a lot grand ideas and I’m all for giving it your best shot, but I also think it’s important to admit when it’s time to move on.
Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?
Yes. People assume I get hired to cook for men because I am a woman. Cooking is still a man’s world, and being a petite female chef specializing in healthy food definitely does not give me major kitchen clout. When I do events with lots of strong male chefs I usually have to really prove that I am capable, because it’s assumed that I’m not, but I’m up for it.
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?
Being in a field that’s still relatively new, I’m not certain where I sit on the spectrum of other healthy chefs and each job comes with a new contract and different rates. I feel like I am always pushing against a financial ceiling but I know that my other chef friends—female and male —are doing the same.
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
That they don’t know how to work hard.