Shannon is the creative head of Urban Farm Foods, working with local purveyors to bring the best of what each season has to offer to her pop-ups. She also cooks with what she gardens herself! Her experiences range from podcast and tarot-themed dinners to art class happy hours and Whole30 feasts. Make sure to check out what she’s got on our Portland Dining Month line-up!
How did you find your way into the historically male-dominated culinary industry?
I started as a backyard farmer with a trove of family recipes. My grandmother was known in Southern California as “The Bagel Lady,” and I admired her self-made mark on the food world early on. I started selling my own goods at a local farmers market, like canned and pickled produce I grew myself. I started Urban Farm Foods with artisan pickles from heirloom recipes, earning the nickname “The Pickle Lady” at the markets. My pickles caught on and gave me the ambition to take my cooking to the next level. I applied and was chosen for a Food Network competition, crushing some culinary champs. It it a fire under me, especially since I did better than my male competition. “The Pickle Lady” could kick as much ass as they could – maybe even more.
What has been a defining moment, positive or negative, in your career?
I’ve learned to take the negative and let it push me forward. But I have to admit that the dismissive attitude of some chefs once they find out I’m not professionally trained is crushing. I have gained momentum using that judgment to be my best.
Tell us about the women who serve up culinary inspiration in your life.
My Gram is my role model as a self-made Jane of all trades in the cooking world. She filled an actual basket with baked goods and bagel sandwiches, pedaling them to local fire stations, salons, police stations, and any business that might not have had the luxury of a traditional lunch break. Bringing food to people as a service made her a legend in our community. I strive for that level of ingenuity and out-of-the-box thinking.
What advice do you have for other women trying to build culinary careers?
Work together. Build each other up. Hire one another. Support and promote one another. It’s hard enough in the world and we are far more efficient as a team.