“I don’t know what else I would do. Food has always been an integral part of my life,” said Executive Chef Dana Murrell.
Chef Dana’s role in the culinary world has taken many forms throughout her life and career, from placing in a high school cooking competition to leading Green Chef as executive chef today.
But some things have always been constants for Chef Dana: her philosophy of food, her determination to make it in a male-dominated industry, and her commitment to family.
Chef Dana shares how she made her own way in the culinary field and what it took to find where she really fit.
“You have to prove yourself, and I think that makes you stronger and harder.”
Cooking has long been viewed as a domestic task, a woman’s role. Yet in professional culinary circles, men are known to rule the roost. Dana is no stranger to having to lean in, and dig in her heels, among male colleagues.
Men have easy entry into the culinary profession: start as a dishwasher and work your way up. Not so for women, who seldom get hired for such entry-level positions. Instead, like Dana, women are expected to earn a culinary degree as the first step of proving their bonafides.
Even after graduating from culinary school and working in restaurants, Dana encountered “a lot of hurdles.” Such as a chef who made it his mission to bring her to tears and a line cook who refused to listen to her despite her expertise.
Of course, it takes more than one person to transform an industry, so Dana had to take control of her own experience.
“You have to continue to push yourself to show them that you can not only play with the big boys but that you can do it faster and harder and better. It makes them respect you. And I think that makes you a stronger person in general and a stronger person in your field.”
“I was content in knowing what I thought was my place.”
Earning the respect of her male colleagues wasn’t the only hurdle. Executive chefs are expected to work 50-60 hours a week, typically late into the night and on weekends, which doesn’t always mesh with motherhood.
It was difficult for Dana to find a restaurant that could accommodate her family’s schedule, and in those that would, advancing professionally was impossible. She couldn’t accept more hours to move up, so she ultimately decided to support her husband (also a chef) and children by taking a daytime line cook job.
“My place was a supporting role for [my husband] to be an executive chef. I was working during the day and home at night with the kids so he could live out his passion as an executive chef, which required working night shifts. So I wasn’t looking for anything else for myself.”
Cue Green Chef. While trawling Craigslist for job postings for her husband, Dana found an intriguing call for a chef to develop 10 new recipes a week. She jumped on it and has been Green Chef’s executive chef since the beginning.
Each week, she and her team mastermind recipes for Green Chef’s organic meal kits that customers cook at home. Chef Dana gets to not only bring her culinary creations to life for thousands of people but also work a more desirable schedule that allows for family time.
“There’s always work to be done here, but I get to have weekends off and still be involved in food. It’s huge changing over to Green Chef. My husband’s quite jealous, and it’s been really exciting for me as a chef. I am shipping 5-star-restaurant-quality food to consumers.”
Chef Dana sees the possibilities as endless. She can cook what she wants while giving other busy working professionals what they want: quick, simple, delicious meals.
“I think cooking is extremely empowering.”
Even professional chefs have to ask themselves when they get home, “What’s for dinner tonight?” But you don’t need culinary training to apply Chef Dana’s advice for achieving success in the kitchen: “Keep it simple, stupid. Or stupid-simple.”
Chef Dana strongly believes that simple, easy, no-fuss food is also the most delicious food. She also knows not everyone has the know-how to cook without a recipe or confidence in their abilities.
“I know cooking is a skill that I take for granted. I can go home, open my fridge, pull out a few things, and through knowledge and training, just whip up a dinner. That in and of itself is empowering. It’s amazing. When I take a step back and look at it through someone else’s lens, see what I’m capable of, it’s really kind of cool.”
At Green Chef, she’s able to carry out her passion for creating delicious, easy-to-prepare food and empowering others to cook at home. Every recipe Chef Dana develops and sends to customers comes with simple instructions and prepped ingredients to cook a complete meal in just about 30 minutes.
“There’s a need for more women doing what we do.”
Chef Dana hopes to not only empower more women to take charge of their own kitchens but also help them excel in the professional culinary world.
“I want to set up a scholarship fund that’s specifically geared toward women in the culinary business. It’s such an important field for everybody to be a part of, and I don’t think that women should be excluded. They have to go to culinary school, so what’s a good way to help them start that journey for their life?”
You can try Chef Dana’s masterpieces yourself by joining Green Chef. Their meal kits have everything you need to cook delicious dinners: organic ingredients, easy recipes, all delivered. Get $50 off your first order.