By Alexa McKay
Like many chefs, I often get the question “What inspired you to become a chef?” In high school, I enjoyed hosting themed parties for my friends with food at the heart of each event. Crafting the menu and executing the meals inspired me to enroll in culinary school and become a chef. In my second year of college, I began to wonder about my culinary path. I had enjoyed my science courses in high school, and I hoped they would complement my passion for culinary arts. It was at that point that I discovered the Research Chefs Association and attended my first conference in Atlanta, Georgia. I realized then I had found my tribe.
As soon as I moved to Northwest Arkansas, I joined the regional RCA committee, and after a 3-year membership, I became its regional chair. This region has been active in RCA for 5 years, and our previous regional chairs, Alisha Deakins and Jason Behrends, were instrumental in building the group and keeping strong sponsor and member relationships.
Before becoming a regional chair, I enlisted advice from Ingredion’s Ann Nguy to learn more about the role and responsibilities. After a lengthy discussion about all the many challenges I would face, Anh’s final piece of advice sealed the deal. She said it all comes down to how much you want pportunities to connect, grow, compete, and succeed professionallto give back to RCA. As an RCA student member, I always felt embraced by the organization. I was given oy. RCA and its members invested so much in me, and I wanted to give future culinologists the opportunities I was afforded.
Leading this region has helped me develop my leadership skills and taught me a lot about delegation. For each event or activity, I designate a co-chair to help with the planning and execution. I’ve also learned to let the members lead the planning by sending out an engagement survey with ideas for the educational, social, and philanthropic events. I let the feedback lead the planning and use it to draft the annual plan. It’s a win-win situation because it takes the guess work out of choosing what types of events to plan for the year, and we get to design events that we know our members want to attend.
Over the past year, I’ve learned that the opportunities we have as the Northwest Arkansas Regional Hub go beyond just putting together fun food events. We can get more connected with the chefs and culinary craftsmen in our area. We can mentor students by supporting Brightwater Culinary School and University of Arkansas Culinary Science Program. We can also give back to our community by using our unique skills to serve others. And with each event, I’m reminded that the culinary scene is alive and thriving in Northwest Arkansas. I’m humbled and thankful for this opportunity and I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish over the next year!
Want more? Check out Alexa's top three NWA Regional events, and then explore upcoming regional events near you!
- Cooking with Fire Workshop and Dinner at Brightwater Culinary School
- Foraging Northwest Arkansas with guest speaker Ben Starr
- Dia de los Muertos themed reception at Pratt Place in Fayetteville