Becoming a culinary chef was only a dream — until she made that dream a reality. And because of her dedication to the Certified Hereford Beef (CHB®) brand, Robbi Jenkins, executive chef of Three Fires Steakhouse, Prairie Band Casino and Resort, Mayetta, Kan., can now add the title of 2012 CHB Distinguished Chef to that reality.
Fenton Barnard, Kansas City Protein LLC procurement manager, nominated Jenkins. This nomination, coupled with letters of recommendation, her résumé, the Three Fires Steakhouse menu and her entrees, led to her recent honor.
Her background is rich and diverse. And it all led to the discovery of her true passion — playing out her life’s love through culinary expression.
Strong culinary roots
Jenkins was born and raised in Mississippi, where she watched her grandfather work as a baker and her grandmother — Mama — work as a domestic worker, providing meals for the more affluent families of their hometown.
“With my granddad, I was 10 before I ever had a store-bought bread or cake,” she says. “And I always watched Mama entertain and cook beautiful, wonderful Sunday dinners.”
Although she enjoyed perusing cookbooks and creating new recipes, a career in the culinary field wasn’t at the top of Jenkins’ mind as she entered college and pursued a degree in English. Upon graduation, Jenkins worked as a flight attendant out of Miami and then moved to L.A. to take her place in the corporate world.
“All the while, I was entertaining and preparing new recipes,” she says. “And my friends would always say that I should do it professionally. But I just didn’t know how to make a career of it.”
However, changing life events took Jenkins back to where her parents were living in the suburbs of Chicago. And Jenkins decided it was time to follow a new career — one that allowed her to pursue her life passion.
In 1994 she entered the two-year program at Washburne Culinary Institute & French Pastry School
“I wasn’t there more than a week, and it was like I had an epiphany,” she says. “I felt within myself that I had found what I was looking for. I was delighted, and I felt so fulfilled. By the time I was finished, I knew I wanted to be a chef. And I knew I wanted to go someplace fabulous to work under excellent chefs.”
Jenkins began her career at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Chicago, where she worked with a number of outstanding chefs for five years.