Pippa Taylor, exec chef of Strings, on haggis, offal and the Duchess of York
This is part one of my interview with Pippa Taylor, the executive chef of Strings. Part two of our chat will run tomorrow.
Pippa Taylor is the first to admit her good fortune -- and the last to take it for granted. At 25, she's worked in exactly three professional kitchens, including Strings, where she's now the executive chef, cooking alongside her sous -- and husband -- Ryan, the son of Kevin Taylor, whose restaurant empire in this city is legendary. "I got my first job in the business working at Prima, and I brushed up on my skills quickly, while staging at Restaurant Kevin Taylor, where I eventually worked my way up, and it was literally the most amazing place for me to start my cooking career," says Pippa. "The people who work there are just incredible, and it if weren't for them -- for Kevin, Ryan and Austin Cueto, the executive chef -- I wouldn't be here."
A cooking career, however, wasn't Pippa's passion -- at least not in the beginning. "I was born in London and raised globally in countries that were immersed in food culture, but it wasn't until high school that I began to really develop an interest in cooking," she admits, adding that she began creating three-course dinners for her parents while watching All My Children marathons on SOAPnet. "I'm officially a dork," she jokes.
But cooking those multi-course dinners -- and immersing herself in cookbooks -- made her rethink her future, which was headed toward a maze of numbers. "I graduated from DU with a degree in finance and accounting, and it just didn't click for me," she remembers. "I told my dad that, yeah, no, all that tuition he paid for college wasn't going to work out."
She applied to culinary school at Cook Street but ended up forgoing the formal curriculum when she snatched up jobs at Prima and Restaurant Kevin Taylor, where her tenure lasted just over a year. "I wanted to see what else was out there," she recalls. "I still wanted to work in fine dining, but I wanted a different atmosphere -- and I wanted to keep learning."
Pippa had met Noel Cunningham, the founder/original chef of Strings who tragically passed away last year, when she was just eight years old, and he impressed her even then. "I remember Noel giving me a tour of Ciao Baby! and letting me make Italian sodas with him," she says. "I even had my graduation party there."