What's NOT on My Resume: Stephanie Izard

By Kathleen Squires  |  October 10, 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.

The girl behind Chicago’s Girl & The Goat and Little Goat, Stephanie Izard, holds the distinction of being the first woman to win Top Chef. At the time, she owned her own restaurant, Scylla, in Chicago, which was named one of Bon Appetit’s top 10 restaurants in the nation. After she snagged the Top Chef championship, she went on to open both “Goat” restaurants, and in the process was named a Food & Wine Best New Chef and then won a James Beard Foundation Award for “Best Chef: Great Lakes.”

Her culinary career really started, however, when she was in college at the University of Michigan. “I worked in my college dorm cafeteria,” the chef confides. “Sundays I went in and put on a little hairnet and served food from a steam table.” She also did time at a nearby Olive Garden. “I still know all the birthday songs,” Izard says, adding that the experience sparked her interest in the restaurant industry. “It was at the Olive Garden that I found out that the restaurant industry was full of fun people.” Thankfully, that experience came after working at the college cafeteria, where she says “I really I did not learn anything from that experience. It wasn’t terrible, but it just wasn’t the type of environment that I wanted to work in. It wasn’t disgusting, surprisingly. But I also had to sit there and stop people from stealing stuff. Like, I really didn’t care if that football player took that apple. That’s fine.”