Interview with Melissa Perello of Octavia & Frances

What was your first memory of cooking and what did you cook?

My first memory of cooking is baking biscuits with my grandmother, Frances. I named my first restaurant after her.

What is a knife you cannot live without?

I cannot live without a basic chef’s knife. I use it for almost everything. Right now, my favorite is my Ohisi Gyuto, which I purchased at Bernal Cutlery

What is one ingredient you cannot cook without?

Meyer lemons. I use them whenever I can.

What is it like to have won a Michelin star? And, to be one of the few women to hold a Michelin star?

Of course, if feels wonderful to be recognized for something I am so passionate about. Being a woman in any industry comes with its own set of challenges. I’m a chef, and I love to cook. It’s what I do, and I’m grateful that I’ve been able to turn this into a career for myself.

Speaking of being a woman, it seems many chefs are males. What is it like to work in a heavily dominated male industry as a woman? Are you involved in any mentorships or programs to help increase the number of women in the culinary world?

I’m not involved in any mentorship programs. I believe in working closely with our chefs and staff at both Frances and Octavia. We are like a family, and it’s important to me that they get the support and mentorship needed for them to grow professionally in their careers.

What was the inspiration behind Frances and your most recent restaurant, Octavia? How would you describe the two menus and vibes for someone who has not dined with you?

For both restaurants, I wanted to create a refined experience in a comfortable, neighborhood setting, while also maintaining approachable pricing. 

What was one of the biggest mistakes you made your first year in the culinary industry?

Not keeping my mouth shut and head down.  

When did you know you wanted to become a chef or restaurant proprietor?

I knew in high school that this is what I wanted to do.

Who has been the most influential mentor/chef in your career?

Ron Siegal

What is your favorite after work drink?

A glass of white wine. Right now, I’m particularly fond of the Champeleou Chenin Blanc from Vouvray

What is your favorite local spot?

The Morris

Melissa Perello

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