Who is Chef Veera?
Pretty simple really. Driven by a passion that borders on obsession that developed in me at a very young age I always knew I was going to be a chef. I remember when I was 8, I started cooking often at home (with adult supervision, of course). At 12 I planned and cooked a meal for over 30 people for a friend of my parents. I remember lying in bed night after night planning the ingredients, flavors, timing, and thoroughly enjoyed watching people savor the meal. I was officially hooked.
As I grew older, I came to the realization that one of the ways I showed my love for people was to make and share food. One slight problem was the fact that women did not become chefs in India. This did not stop me because my parents were incredibly supportive, taught me to believe in myself, and, that anything and everything was achievable in life. They even named me Veera which means brave in Hindi (Primary Language in India) so from the day I was born I was not afraid to challenge myself. Culinary school here I come. Me and six other women making up less than 5% of the graduating class received our degrees three years later.
I graduated with honors…yeah!!!
My degree required me to take a national exam (Indian Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition) before I could receive my diploma and I placed 8th in the country…another yeah!!! So, life had to become easier now…right? It did not. I excelled in school but struggled mightily to enter the workforce in hospitality. Oh, I was offered many opportunities in housekeeping or front desk work but that social stigma thing…a women doing a man’s job…did not go away. Additionally, I had come to realize that just as my grandmother and mother had been educators, I was just as passionate about education and training.
Based on some great advice, I proceeded to get on a plane for the first time and left India, and the only home I knew to go halfway around the world to the USA.
I arrived in Providence RI and became a graduate student at Johnson and Wales University. Upon graduation I was hired by the school as an administrative assistant. Wow…this was it! Not only am I around food but I am a part of one of the top culinary institutions in the US. At the end of my 22-year career there, I was privileged to have been a faculty member, department head, Vice President of Operations and finished my career as Provost and Chief Academic officer for the University. In this last position I was responsible for an $87M instructional budget and over 500 full time faculty over four campuses across 6 colleges and schools.
During my career at JWU I also taught courses in leadership, intercultural communication, teambuilding and strategic planning. The best part, though, was the opportunity to take classes and workshops alongside my culinary colleagues – learning about culinary nutrition, modernist cuisine, food chemistry and more.
Although I was extremely proud of everything that I was achieving, there was a feeling that some things were missing in my life. My career had taken me further and further from the things I was most passionate about, food and students. My true first loves of life. There was also this little issue with spending way too little time with my best friend and life partner. I was traveling around four campuses while husband Joe was traveling around the globe. It became a rare occurrence to achieve quality time together or even to be home together. Both of us felt it time to rethink our lives. Enter Oil & Vinegar (culinary gift store).
Oil &Vinegar was a franchise concept that we both fell in love with.
Firstly, because the products were of significant quality and I found it a great pleasure incorporating many of the ingredients and flavors into my creations. Secondly, I was determined to be focused on healthy eating and I have always had a love for the longevity and proven outcome of the Mediterranean lifestyle. The O&V product selection perfectly supports this lifestyle. Based on this, Joe and I decided to leave our corporate jobs, open the store, and get back to the things we loved most…food and each other. I have found that opening the store gave me the flexibility to create and experiment with new and amazing recipes.
Over the six years of owning the store I have laid down the necessary ground work and I am ready and excited for another step. I believe all the healthy cooking demos I am doing for Prisma Health and the Greenville SC Farmers Market, all the tasting parties, all the one-on-one consultations in the store with our guests, and, the daily “here Joe try this” J routine has prepared me to launch my dream. Come along with me and enjoy the ride. Be a part of my dream by sharing ideas and helpful critiques in the development of healthy (at least most of the time) and delicious (I hope all of the time) menu items that you will be proud to have on your table no matter if it is the family or an entertaining event. Please come and join me to experience the love that one can only encounter through the sharing of simple yet incredible food.
Chef Veera Gaul PhD