“Eastern has a beautiful campus, a welcoming atmosphere and amazing staff who are always prepared to help when needed." – Jessica Roberts
Jessica Roberts, a graduate student at Eastern New Mexico University, is preparing to become Chef Johnny Vee’s assistant in Santa Fe this August.
Chef Vee is known for his book, “Cooking with Johnny Vee,” and for teaching cooking classes.
Since the chef is in contact with multiple restaurants in the Santa Fe area, Ms. Roberts will be “placed where I am needed at any given time.”
She found out about the position while working as Sheryl Borden's personal assistant on the PBS show “Creative Living.”
“For one of our tapings, Chef Johnny Vee came in as our honored guest. As part of my job, I had the privilege of assisting him in preparing all of his dishes for the show,” said the student, who earned a bachelor’s in family and consumer science with emphasis in culinary arts from ENMU in May 2014.
“After taping, we went to lunch together. We got to know a little more about each other’s backgrounds and he offered to help me with work once I returned to Santa Fe,” she explained.
Ms. Roberts is working toward a master’s in business administration. She chose to begin her collegiate career in Portales in 2012 because “Eastern has a beautiful campus, a welcoming atmosphere and amazing staff who are always prepared to help when needed. I feel like it was the perfect decision for me.”
She has been involved in Zeta Tau Alpha, Zeta Tau Alpha Alumni, Family and Consumer Science Student Unit and the American Association of University Women (AAUW).
“I often help out with 'All Individuals First,' which is a day-hab for adults with developmental disabilities, such as my two sisters with Down syndrome,” explained the 2013-14 president of AAUW and FCS Student Unit.
Her favorite ENMU course was ‘Soups, Stalks and Sauces’ with Dr. Charles Broz, because “every once in a while, we would have competitions where we could use anything in the kitchen. We only had about 30 minutes or one hour to make a meal, plate it and serve it. It was exhilarating.”
She started off wanting to teach family and consumer science, but “came to find that my heart was more in the cooking and prepping than the teaching.”
Ms. Roberts has “two dream jobs. My first is to open my own hotel and restaurant in a castle in Ireland. I would like it to be fully medieval-themed and, preferably, in County Cork, where they hold some of the world’s largest Renaissance festivals.
“My second dream job would be to get paid to travel the world and learn how to cook each country’s food properly, the way it is meant to be cooked.”
Her favorite childhood memories are from bonding with her father when she was four.
“I remember waking up every day around 5 a.m. to watch Scooby Doo with my father. We were the only people in the house who would be awake. I have six older sisters, so it was rare for us to have alone time like this. on one of these mornings he asked me to come over and he taught me how to make french toast, this started my love of cooking.”
Ms. Roberts is placing her degree “on hold” for her brain surgery this summer. After she has healed from having an Acoustic Neuroma tumor removed and settled into her new job, the chef assistant “may start thinking of returning to school.”
Her original plan was to “receive a bachelor’s, run off to Ireland and pursue a culinary career there. However, I became ill and soon after discovered the tumor.
“I decided that while I was to remain in New Mexico for medical reasons, I may as well put my time to good use and try to obtain my master’s,” she explained. “Chef Johnny Vee was very understanding of my medical situation and is allowing me to wait until I am back on my feet before I begin working.
“If all goes well, I am hoping to begin by August. I am really just excited to be cooking every day; it's my passion. I also know that Chef Johnny Vee travels all over the world a lot, so I am hoping that, as an assistant, he will need some assisting on these trips.”