Missy Robbins

Born: Washington, DC; 1971. Raised: North Haven, CT.

Education: Peter Kump's New York Cooking School, New York City.

Experience: 1789, Washington, DC; Wheatleigh, Lenox, Massachusetts; March, Arcadia and Lobster Club, New York City; Spiaggia, Chicago.

How she got into cooking: "When I was an undergrad at Georgetown in Washington, DC, I found out that a friend of mine was cooking at Charlie Trotter's after she'd gone to Northwestern in Chicago. I thought, If she can cook there, I can, too. I sent Charlie Trotter a letter. And he called me back! My roommate said, 'Charlie Trotter is on the phone for you." It was unbelievable. He told me I could come out and intern, but I should really get a job in DC."

Memorable cooking experience: Cooking at March with guest chef André Soltner, the legendary former chef of NYC's Lutèce. "He was behind the line all day; he was so sweet and so cool."

Pet peeve in the kitchen: "My chefs have them listed, they're hanging on the wall. Giant chunks of cooked carrots in staff meal is one of them. I'm also not a big fan of 'Oui chef' as a response to a question."

Favorite kitchen tools: Her pasta gadgets, including her manual pasta machine and the chitarra, a frame strung with wire for making thick and thin pasta strands. "If I could just roll out pasta all the time, I'd be a happy camper."

Advice to future cooks: Take your time. "I've taken the really long path. A lot of people open their own places before they're 30. That's hard. You can't go back to being a line cook after you've become a chef-owner; you get further and further away from focusing on basic skills. Enjoy the time when you can really cook."

Favorite cookbook/chef bio/etc: The Encyclopedia of Pasta (Oretta Zanini de Vita), translated by Maureen Fant, and the River Café cookbooks.