(Photo Credit: George Billard)
NAME: Alex Raij
WHO SHE IS: As one of few chefs serving innovative-yet-homey Spanish fare in New York, and garnering much praise for it from restaurant critics and customers alike, you’d think Alex Raij would be a more well-known figure, especially in New York City. But unlike many flashier, and often less accomplished, chefs, whose faces get plastered all over the press, Raij has quietly built a mini empire serving a diverse assortment of Spanish cuisine at the restaurants she owns with her husband (and co-chef) Eder Montero including the Basque-themed Txikito and El Quinto Pino, which serves tapas, are both in Chelsea; La Vara, serving Spanish food with Jewish influences, is in Brooklyn. Raij also added “working mom” to her list of more-recent accomplishments: She and Montero have two children under the age of five.
WHY SHE INSPIRES ME: As a serious home cook and sometimes-food-media professional, Raij serves exactly the kind of restaurant fare that delights me: warm and personal, yet very seriously top-quality delicious. And with so many personal and professional responsibilities pulling at her, I love that her favorite part about being a well-seasoned chef is that she has become a better teacher and mentor to her staff: “The older you get, the more you realize you need help. So you become more giving as you become more needy.” That’s the kind of work-life balance I aspire to.