'Top Chef’s' Adrienne Wright on Working as a Chef While Pregnant
Chef Adrienne Wright thought the two or three months after filming Top Chef in Kentucky last year would be her opportunity to step back into the role of executive chef for Boston Urban Hospitality and get into the swing of things before the busy holiday season started. But as she was settling in, she got some news that would change everything for the chef and her husband. Wright found out that she was expecting her first child, meaning she had to reevaluate her role going into the busiest time of year for the restaurants. “It was really stressful those two months,” Wright remembers.
Today, Adrienne’s role as executive chef of Boston Urban Hospitality, which runs four different restaurants across Boston, may look the same on the surface — she’s still checking in on each restaurant, assisting with menu changes and helping out where she can — but at five months pregnant she’s had to make changes to how she does her job. “I’ve definitely been redefining my role,” she says. “It’s about setting up better structures around me so everyone already has the skill sets that they need to when I’m eight or nine months pregnant and I can’t move around the kitchen.”
Getting everyone in the back of the house on the same page required telling everyone the happy news. “It was really fun to tell my teams and they were really excited for us,” Adrienne says smiling. “It was a huge show of support.” With the team in the loop, Adrienne jumped into the busy season thinking she’d work and perform the same as before, but those first two months were a big challenge. “Being a chef in your early pregnancy is not easy,” she says. Beyond the demanding physical nature of the job, there’s also a list of food that pregnant women can’t eat — which can be a problem when your job is to taste every dish. “There are so many things you shouldn’t be eating like tartare and oysters, I’ve had to have my line cooks and sous chefs taste things for me.” Her teams have also stepped in to help in the kitchen when she needs help. “My line cooks have become protective of what I’m carrying in the kitchen and they’ll literally take things out of my hands and carry them for me,” Adrienne laughs.
The biggest challenge for Adrienne has been learning new ways to be a leader in the kitchen. “Being pregnant has meant redefining of every way I learned to be effective as a chef,” she says. “In my career, I’ve had to work harder, faster and longer than everyone and I can’t do that now. I can’t change the fryer oil in seven minutes anymore.” Instead, she’s had to rely on her team to execute to her standards. “I had to learn to trust my team and give directions instead of jumping in and doing it myself. I really want to empower them to do what they have to do.”
Looking ahead, Adrienne is excited to see how her role shifts once she’s a mom. “It’ll be different but I still want to be the ambitious chef that I’ve always been as a mom,” she says excitedly. “I’m very determined to be a good mom and a good chef.”