Elodie Li is the executive chef at The Kitchen at Abeja, a new Walla Walla-based restaurant that celebrates European cooking techniques with produce only found in Washington. Even though Chef Li decided to pursue the culinary arts only four years ago, she has already cooked throughout France and is now showcasing her talents at The Kitchen at Abeja. Learn about Chef Elodie Li…
Hometown: Kirkland, WA
First job: I was 18 and a hostess at Anthony’s HomePort in Edmonds.
Favorite ways to spend your free time in WA: I love yoga, Vinyasa specifically. Hiking around the Cascades, Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier.
Your biggest accomplishment and why: Three years ago, I moved to Aix-en-Provence to live out my dream of cooking in the south of France for Michelin-Star restaurants. It proved to be a thankless, chaotic and sometimes hostile environment, especially for a young, female chef. I focused on the food and held onto my passion for it and the rest became static noise. I showed up early, left late, worked my way up to new positions and new restaurants. I moved back here with a powerful résumé, a lot of new techniques and, most importantly, the immovable belief that you do not have to change who you are to do what you love.
The biggest obstacle you overcame: Loss. I think we have all had our own experiences in this department of life. I think it is the one common obstacle that we view as life changing no matter who we are, where we come from or what we do. I believe that I am still overcoming it as it is not something one action can overturn. For me, it is found in daily habits, chasing the things that spark joy in me and having a new dream to chase.
Someone who inspires you and why: A lot of people inspire me. But without a doubt my point person for constant inspiration is and always will be my father. He immigrated here with $70 in his pocket and built a life of opportunity and privilege for my mother, younger sister and I. He never accepted help or let adversity get in the way of what he knew he wanted and could create. Any successes that may come in my future will be equally his as they will be mine.
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: Find something larger than yourself to stay focused on. A dream, an ideal, a vision, whatever it is for you. This industry can be quite difficult, and if you do not have something to hold on to, it will be more difficult to stay committed to the process. However, once you find your place in this industry, you become a part of one of the most rewarding, innovative and passionate spaces this world has to offer.
Favorite quote: “For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald
Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: I only chose this career four years ago. I had wanted to be so many different things and could never make up my mind. But I had never even thought about being a chef until I turned 21.
What makes someone fabulous: The way people around them feel. Someone who uplifts, inspires joy and happiness to others is fabulous.