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Courtesy of Valerie Bautista
Stephanie Alderete

BHS graduate named ‘Top 5' young chef

Alderete is garnering attention in culinary world

STAFF WRITER

ATLANTA • For one Barstow High School alum, returning home is almost always a precursor to a stop at local restaurant Lola’s Kitchen — quite the compliment coming from someone earning praise for her own culinary skills.

“Every single time I come back to Barstow, I have to go to Lola’s,” Stephanie Alderete, a 2004 BHS graduate, explained by phone Monday.

Gayot.com, a website specializing in dining, travel and lifestyle, recently named Alderete one of their Top 5 Rising Chefs in the U.S. for 2013.

“(Alderete) has shot through the ranks to become a seasoned pro as chef de cuisine at one of Atlanta’s top-dining destinations, Nikolai’s Roof ... (working) with local organic farmers, fishermen and game farmers to create a dazzlingly sophisticated, seasonally changing menu,” the website proclaimed.

Atlanta Magazine featured Alderete in an article published last week, stating that “she’s changing things up, working to infuse new life into Nikolai’s and its menu.”

Nikolai’s Roof, located inside the downtown-Atlanta Hilton, is the only area restaurant to be awarded the AAA Four Diamond rating 24 years in a row, according to the magazine. And reviewers give the Franco-Russian eatery 3.5 out of 5 stars on Yelp and 4.4 out of 5 stars on OpenTable.

“My responsibility is, basically, I control the food, presentation and any kind of food items that come out of there,” she said about her role as chef de cuisine — a fancier way of saying “executive chef” or, in French, the chief of the kitchen.

But Alderete began modestly enough, working in catering at the Hilton following graduation from the Art Institute of Atlanta in 2006, where she earned an associate’s degree in culinary arts.

Within two years, she was able to transition to Nikolai’s and then advance — through hard work, her mom attests — from chef de partie to sous chef to her current role.

In retrospect, her mother, Valerie Bautista, might have predicted Alderete’s future.

“Since she was little, she always said she wanted to be a chef,” Bautista explained, when asked to recall any tell-tale signs. “She would grab everyone’s leftovers and make her own creation from them.”

Alderete would cook for her family at an early age, likely influenced by her first chef role model — her grandmother.

“Her grandmother cooked great Mexican food and Stephanie was always wanting to learn,” Bautista noted.

The 27-year-old will marry this fall. Her fiance, Chris, cooks as well. He oversees the dining program at a private school, but Alderete insists, at home, there is no competition in the kitchen.

“At home, it’s much more casual,” she said.

When asked who was the better cook, she laughed off the question at first.

Then, after a quiet moment, she said, “Me.”

Shea Johnson may be reached at (760) 256-4126 or at SJohnson@DesertDispatch.com.


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