Few American chefs can boast staying power in Michelin-starred restaurants, but chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli has worked in some of the country's top restaurants, including the esteemed chef Guy Savoy's eponymous three-star kitchen.
The daughter of esteemed cookbook editor Maria Guarnaschelli, Alex spent her childhood surrounded by food and learned to eat according to whatever book her mother was working on at the time (one year was devoted to Indian with Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Cooking, another to Italian with Lynne Rossetto Kasper's The Splendid Table).
"My mother was always coaxing me from my 'Barbie land' under the dining room table to peel potatoes, knead bread or assemble a trifle,” says Alex. "What else could a 7-year-old have wanted from life?"
That early emphasis on her palate truly shaped her future in food. After graduation from Barnard College in 1991, she decided to explore her culinary interests and began working under the tutelage of the acclaimed American chef and restaurateur Larry Forgione.
Forgione encouraged his protegée to travel and expand her skill set, and she obligingly moved to France to do a work study at La Varenne Culinary School in Burgundy. After school and traveling throughout France, she moved to Paris to begin a four-day stage at the Michelin three-star restaurant Guy Savoy. Four days turned into four years as Alex was rapidly promoted to sous chef at La Butte Chaillot, another Savoy establishment. “The first three months were terrifying: imagine being a young American woman in charge of a French kitchen with 10 young male cooks under you? Professionally, it was a life-changing experience,” she says.
After seven successful years in France, Alex returned stateside. But although she left the country, she maintained her connection with the cuisine, joining the venerable Daniel Boulud at restaurant Daniel, where she quickly rose through the ranks to become sous chef at the Manhattan standard. Always looking to expand her culinary knowledge, she moved to Los Angeles for two years to join Joachim Splichal's Patina Group, where she worked at the acclaimed Patina restaurant in West Hollywood before moving to New York to open Splichal's first New York City venture.
In 2003 Alex was given the opportunity to expand her repertoire and become the executive chef at Butter Restaurant, where she would create her own eclectic American- and green-market-inspired menu. In addition to her restaurant work, she inspires budding chefs as a chef-Instructor at New York City's Institute of Culinary Education. She also helms the kitchen of The Darby, which opened in New York City in September 2010.
Chef Alex appeared on Food Network as both a challenger and a judge on the hit series Iron Chef America and as the host of The Cooking Loft. A reccurring judge on two popular primetime series, Chopped and Chopped: Champions, she also launched her daytime cooking series, Alex's Day Off, in October 2009. She is also a competitor in the newest season of Next Iron Chef, airing October 2011.