Roshara Sanders is the first black female chef faculty member at The Culinary Institute of America. She is an inspirational figure who has overcome hardship and poverty, served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and rose to the top of the restaurant game, before taking her talent, skill, empathy and wisdom to America’s most important institution of culinary training. She plans to change the industry from the inside out.
Sanders came from tough beginnings, raised by her mother in a Habitat for Humanity housing project. Her mother remains her major inspiration, and it was she who instilled a love of cooking in the young Sanders.
The restaurant industry is accepting and gives anyone a chance, and it was instrumental in helping Sanders' mother overcome her struggles with addiction. However, the industry was not without its problems, and Sanders witnessed how inequality, exploitation and racism took a toll on her mother. She resolved to change the industry once she became established within it.
With a certainty that she was going to follow her passion into the world of gastronomy, Sanders joined the US military in order to get the GI Bill to pay for her tuition at the CIA. She served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, before returning to the US. While she was at home visiting her mother, in January 2012, Sgt. Vincinte Jackson broke into the room Sanders shared with Spc. Brandy Fonteneaux at Colorado’s Fort Carson and stabbed her 74 times, killing her. (Jackson was sentenced to life in December 2012.).
Fonteneaux, herself a chef, had always encouraged her friend to follow her culinary dreams, and it was in 2014 that Sanders graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. Things then blew up for Sanders, she entered and won the Chopped TV show *veterans edition) and featured in Forbes’ Under 30 list. Things really began to blow up for Sanders as she led the team at Oceana, known as the best fish restaurant in New York, when the pandemic hit and the shutters came down.
Sanders is resilient though. She took a chance and applied for the position of instructor at her beloved CIA. She aced the rounds of interviews and cooking demonstrations, and landed her dream job.
This chef is not one to rest on her laurels. She is full of ideas and has ambitions to change the restaurant from the inside out. Bringing all her experiences to bear on an industry that is going through great change, with her passion and discipline chef Sanders is very much the right woman in the right place at the right time.