Live, Learn and Never Give Up. Meet Kimberly Roth, Rochester's "Sushi Queen"


Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
My name is Kimberly Roth. I am a 37 year old single mother to a beautiful 6 year old daughter named Apolonnia RoseMarie. I am a 1997 Webster Schroeder Grad and I currently reside in Ontario, NY with my daughter and our dog Chewy.  I am a FOX TV's "Hell's Kitchen" season 16 Black Jacket Finalist, the only person from this side of New York to ever be chosen to compete in the eleven years of the show. I'm a sushi chef and am locally known as the "Sushi Queen".

What did you want to be when you were a child?  
As a child I wanted to be a mom, a homeowner, a nurse or doctor or whatever made me LOTS OF MONEY. I always loved to cook, I grew up in a predominantly Italian family, where sunday sauce and homemade everything was key. I learned at a very young age (starting at 4) how to cook and make sauces and bake from scratch. I would spend a lot of time with my great grandma and grandma learning about meatballs and growing fresh tomatoes and veggies. I learned to appreciate the time and love each meal took to create. I never thought that I would ever be able to make a career out of it, but at least make my future husband and kids happy.

How did you get started? What were some of the difficulties you faced?
My father started me on a stove. Nothing was ever simple in our house. I think deep down inside my dad would of loved to be a chef, but financially it may not of seemed lucrative enough. I was eating Steak Au Poivre, homemade fettuccini alfredo and  surf and turf while my friends were eating boxed Mac and cheese. I remember being 10 years old and helping my friend make dinner for her parents, roasted chicken and potatoes and a homemade( crust too!) chocolate cream pie. I was really good at it, I never had to follow a recipe.. it just made sense. But when I was actually old enough to work in a restaurant, I was never allowed to cook because I was a female. I was always a server, or bartender or Busser. I worked at a local burger place while in high school, where I would beg to cook, I was placed on fryer duty when it was slow. But I would always cook my own lunch using the flattop or grill and soon other people were letting me cook their lunch too. After awhile I gave up cooking, I was tired of being in a restaurant and not doing what I wanted to do, so I started college at MCC and enrolled in the R.N Program. I dropped in and out of college numerous times. I worked as a Phlebotomist, a mental health tech in the inpatient psych unit, as a forensic toxicology tech, and just got sick of the sick. I lost empathy and realized I loved to cook. My brother, who had been working at a local sushi bar, got an opportunity to help open a restaurant as a sushi chef. He offered me a job only as a server, but I took it. I began working both front of the house and learning back of house. I learned how to do Thai Cuisine, Americanized Chinese and Sushi. My brother needed days off during the week for softball, so he showed me how to roll sushi real quick and I was left to fill in as a sushi chef when needed..and man did I get good!! I also started working with the guys in the back learning how to use a wok. Within a year I was offered a job as sushi chef at another restaurant, but had to work my way up. I did dishes, waited tables, I even gutted fish. I did whatever it took because I firmly believed this was what I wanted to do and what I was meant to do. I worked as a head chef and manager at the sushi bar before joining another chef from there in opening a sushi food truck here in Rochester.
 

In moments of self-doubt, hardships or failure, how do you build yourself back up?
When I'm in doubt, I think of my daughter. What am I showing her, what am I teaching her? I never want her to see me worried or troubled, it's me and her against the world. I want her to know that mommy is doing her best and that if she works hard and stays focused she can overcome and be anything she wants to be in life. She is my everything and my goal is to make sure her and I can live a happy and fulfilled life. I want her to teach her daughter everything I'm teaching her, and that's what keeps me focused and on the ground running.

Lettering by Jess Antonow of Bless The Messy

What is your best advice to someone just starting out? What advice do you wish someone had said to you?
Don't ever give yourself time to say "what if" or "if I would of"..... No regrets!! Don't ever take "No" for an answer. I never have and never will (probably why I'm still single). Some call me argumentative or stubborn, or worse. But I'm just a strong believer in getting what I deserve. I work hard for that and I refuse to take anything less. Follow your dreams, be passionate and stay focused. Sometimes you are the only thing in the way of your dreams... so move out of the way!

What inspires you?
My daughter inspires me. And my customers and their loyalty to me keeps me striving to be a damn good chef.  I love the smiles I get when people take that first bite of whatever I just made them... the "ohhhh myyyy geerrrdddd" keeps me going.

What is your favorite part of what you do?
The positive feedback and comments from my followers on social media make all the time I do have to spend away from being a mom worth every second. I love being creative and artistic and flamboyant. I love being able to reflect my personality in my food.

Be sure to visit Chef Kim every Tuesday at Nosh

Be sure to visit Chef Kim every Tuesday at Nosh

What do you find most challenging?
I wish I had a million dollars to open my own place. After I left the food truck this past November it was a struggle emotionally and financially. "Single mom" is something I never wanted to be.. I made ends meet by teaching in-home sushi classes and catering. I got my DBA and my company is called " The Bamboo Panda Catering Co". I worked with Casa Larga hosting "Sip and Sushi " classes every month (which are still going on), I teamed up with Rohrbachs and now I've been given the opportunity to showcase my skills at Nosh.  Every Tuesday night starting I will have my own menu available, mainly Sushi, for people to come and order off of. I'm also the first female Chef on their team so I'm super proud of that as well!

Name some local creatives that you really admire.
Gotta love Linh Phillips of Sir Rocha Says, Tracy Schumacher of Democrat and Chronicle and Breanna Banford from Yelp Rochester. They have really helped pave the way for local chefs like myself to be showcased. They all have given me opportunities to show people in the community what I do, and I thank them for it. I thank the city of Rochester in general for giving me love and support, especially while HELL'S KITCHEN was airing. The outcome of support from everyone was truly amazing and touched my heart. And the people in my personal life who are still by my side, it makes me feel complete. And my parents, who could not be more proud... I think they finally  forgive me for dropping out of college 3 times. And my biggest fan, Apolonnia, she's pretty proud of mommy too.