What's NOT on My Resume: Alex Raij

By Kathleen Squires  |  December 5, 2013

No one starts out on top, especially in the food business. In this weekly column, chefs and restaurateurs across the country share the stories of their humble beginnings.

Diners at any of Alex Raij’s and Eder Montero’s three NYC restaurants—El Quinto Pino, La Vara and Txikito—are in for a flavorful trip through Basque country. Raij’s own culinary journey, however, started with the 31-wonderful flavors of a Baskin Robbins ice cream shop in Minneapolis, where she had her first job as a teen. 

“It was gourmet at the time - pre Häagen-Dazs even,” Raij says. “I was 14, and I wore these Courtney Love-style pink mini dresses. I made a milkshake for Prince once. Some kind of chocolatey thing—not purple.” Besides rubbing elbows with some of the famous clientele, Raij also loved that “ice cream in general makes people happy, and at the time it was the best you could get. I really liked their pralines and cream, the Jamoca almond fudge and one called daiquiri ice - it was like a sherbet. They even had a seasonal black walnut flavor.”

For a teenager, Raij had a lot of responsibility. “I would have to close up the shop at night. Sometimes I would leave and forget to lock the door. In the middle of the night I would realize it and go back to lock up.”  Her one regret? “I never got to decorate the clown cones or cakes.”

Though Raij says she always had an innate sense of responsibility, she adds that the ice cream scooping job  taught her to "take a lot of pride in making things for people.” The gig turned her on to the food business, she adds. “Subsequently I bounced around to low level food service jobs before I went on to culinary school. I was always the person at the deli making sandwiches. I guess in a way I still am.”