Roshara Sanders, known to her fans as “Chef Ro,” is one of America’s most popular chefs and will be a featured speaker at the 2017 Project Hero Women’s Initiative.
Chef Ro is a Veteran who was deployed twice, earning Campaign Medals from Iraq and Afghanistan. When she returned stateside, she was able to cross train as a food supply specialist, igniting her interest and commitment to cooking and service. Upon completion of her Military service, Sanders pursued her passion and enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America and then won the Food Network’s “Chopped” Veterans Day competition. She was then named NBC/BLK’s top 28 Entrepreneurs of 2016 and was awarded the National Restaurant Associations 2017 “Faces of Diversity Award.” Below is an interview with inspiring person.
What is your Military background?
I am a 6-year combat Veteran who spends much time at the Connecticut VA hospital with older Vets. I am active in “Take a Vet Fishing” where I spend time and share stories with several other war Veterans. I am also pursuing Veteran’s music classes. I picked up my first guitar in Iraq and fell in love. The music program is a way to fight PTSD and I see how peaceful music is to Veterans. I love to hear Vietnam Vets play piano and drums and hear their original written music. I just love to be in the presence of people who have experienced what I have at such a young age.
What is the best thing about cooking?
Cooking is a learning tool for me! Every time I touch a food product, even if I have worked with it before, I challenge myself to learn something new about it. It is a gateway to several different types of knowledge. It teaches me about science, nutrition, flavor, environment, ecosystems, politics, etc. Food is life and it helps me expand my mind daily.
Before you won Top Chef, what experience do you have cooking for the Soldiers?
While I served in the Military under a job that had no connection to cooking, I still had several opportunities to jump into the mobile kitchens and help and assist. Oversees or during any training, I would volunteer for kitchen production duty because I understand that food helps nourish Soldiers during these dangerous and long missions. They also allowed us to bond together and lead us to becoming a tighter unit.
What do you think about Project Hero and our mission?
I love Project Hero and believe any organization dedicating any time to Veterans is a life-changing organization. Without things like Project Hero, I feel as though Vets would struggle with ways to come back into a non-war society. It helps us stay hopeful about life and gets people out there and active.
I will be heading to Florida in November to speak and demo for Project Hero’s Women’s Initiative, which is a blessing to share my time with other women Veterans encouraging them and inspiring them as well.
What are your future plans?
I own a company called Alkhemy- www.Alkhemychefs.com. I am Chef Ambassador for Habitat for Humanity International and will be doing a lot of humanitarian work and fundraising to make a change in the world. I am also doing research and development for restaurant groups, developing menu concepts, exploring trends, and elevating food experience for consumers. In 2018 Habitat will be releasing a celebrity cookbook where I am a contributing author. Following that in April, I will be launching my own product line in collaboration with Halls (Crase family business) and will be having proceeds go to Habitat to support their humanitarian efforts. I will also be heading to Malawi, Africa to cook communal dinners while building an orphanage.
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