BABE #224: ALEX THOMOPOULOS, Chef + Comedian
We met Alex at Bourbon and Beyond, right before she crushed an on-stage cooking demo (for none other than Colonel Sanders himself — but that’s a story for another time). With humble beginnings as an server, bartender, caterer, and lover of comedy, Alex has climbed the culinary and comedic ladder to become the multi-talented and multi-passionate culinary artist, on-camera host and stand-up comic she is today. An LA native, she helped open the popular Venice café, Great White, in addition to working on a variety of popular cooking shows. We’re most impressed by her seamless balance between self-care, making us laugh, and filling our bellies — a combo we’re big fans of around here.
Hometown: Los Angeles
Current city: Los Angeles
Alma mater: USC
Degree: I dropped out—because sometimes when you’re 20, you make great decisions?
Very first job: Barista at Coffee Bean (best job ever)
Hustle: Chef, Comedian
Babe you admire and why?
Too many to name. My first thought would be RBG. She’s fierce, smart and has always fought for what she believed was right.
How do you spend your free time?
I am always outdoors — hiking, by the ocean, snowboarding. I also love a good midday Aperol.
Favorite fictional female character?
Athena. She’s strong, wise and never swayed by love or passion. The OG boss bitch.
Go-to coffee order and/or adult beverage?
Mezcal on the rocks, extra limes.
Current power anthem?
“Green Light,” by Lorde. Never gets old.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Anything Thai or Vietnamese. Preferably so spicy that it’s the thing that it ends up killing me.
What’s something you want to learn or master?
Guitar and drums.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Joe Biden or Tina Fey.
What does your typical workday look like?
Because I’m self-employed and my work schedule is all over the place, I have to keep a pretty strict schedule for myself when I can. I get up everyday at 6:00 a.m. and spend the first hour of the day for myself: I meditate for 20 minutes, make coffee, journal and take my dog for a walk. Depending on whether I have events that day, I will make lists and go over orders. Then, I’m usually out the door by 8:00 or 8:30. A typical day when I cater doesn’t end until late that night around 10:00 or 11:00. I wear all sorts of hats during the day: the shopper, the schlepper, the cleaner, the server, the chef and oftentimes the entertainment. It can get exhausting. On the days I’m not cooking, I’m writing. I’m currently working on new stand-up material and a few show concepts.
Which came first: your love for cooking or your love of comedy?
My love for entertaining. My parents would throw these epic dinner parties when I was a kid, and my mom was always in the kitchen. I loved being a part of it all, then performing for everyone after dinner. That eventually led me to studying comedy with Second City, The Groundlings, and Upright Citizens Brigade.
Do you have a formal culinary training?
I went to the International Culinary School at the Art Institute.
Tell us about Great White.
I consulted to do the initial food program at Great White. I started as executive chef, and then passed the baton over to the current chef. I worked with the owners Sam and Sam to help create their vision for their restaurant and help it come to life. It was the first restaurant I had my name attached to, and I got to have my food eaten on a grander and more public scale. It was a very humbling and exciting experience, and probably my biggest career milestone so far.
What advice do you have for young, female chefs in the culinary industry?
Be strong and lean on other women in the industry; they will be your greatest allies and source of inspiration. Always be willing to work harder and longer than the boys — just make sure you’re being paid for it!
How do you continue your industry education and stay on top of evolving trends?
I have a few chef friends who always ask me to help with events and charity functions going on. I always say yes. Every chance in the kitchen is a new opportunity to pick up and learn something new. I also love to skim cookbooks and always hit the farmers market and get new inspiration and recipe ideas.
How has being a woman affected your professional experience?
I’m lucky, because I entered the restaurant world in the last few years where we’re really seeing a shift in the environment towards celebrating and respecting female chefs and female-run businesses. The kitchens used to be totally male-dominated, but we’re lucky to be seeing more women on the line and running their own kitchens. As someone who’s trying to get into the entertainment space, it’s frustrating to see all of the single host jobs go to primarily men. You seldom see a strong female lead carry a show, unless she’s in the kitchen or accompanied by a male partner.
What are some common misconceptions about your job?
Cooking has been glamorized in a way that I think does a disservice to how grueling the service industry is. There’s a difference between a home cook, cookbook author, blogger and someone who’s up every day for 12-14 hours on their feet, working in a commercial kitchen. It’s physically and emotionally exhausting.
What helps you wind down and manage stress?
I meditate. It helps me calm my anxiety and refocus all that’s going on in my head. I’ve managed to have a great work-life balance; I have never been a workaholic. I always find chunks of time to go away and explore and travel.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Keep going, trust the process and be kind. Always.
Connect with Alex:
This interview has been condensed and edited. All photos property of Alex Thomopolous.