After graduating from Heartland in 2007, Aubrey Saltus opted for a less conventional next step. It came at the prompting of her older sister who advised her to attend culinary school.
In retrospect, this only made sense since Aubrey had felt a connection to cooking from age seven. “It started at a really young age. I remember grabbing cookbooks and looking through them deciding what to cook,” she recalled. A recent gander through past journals also reminded her of time spent watching the iconic Martha Stewart.
Aubrey’s young culinary skills were also developed in the community. Her neighbor, Marlene Ott, taught her how to make apple prieska, and elementary librarian Shirley Dyer recruited Aubrey to help her fulfill cookie orders. She also recounted starting a small cookie business with a friend, taking order forms around to local businesses. “The small community allowed for these unique intergenerational relationships.”
After attending culinary school, Aubrey made a bold move to San Francisco. At first, she faced significant adjustments and a challenging journey. A turning point came when she was at a dinner party with the co-founder of Thumbtack. The company provided meals for its employees and was searching for a chef for its small team. An agreement to give the gig a try eventually led to her to be an Executive Chef overseeing a culinary team and providing quality meals to hundreds of employees the company accumulated. Her job was especially enjoyable in a place of abundant, fresh produce. Conveying what a significant time it was in her career, she commented, “Working there was a special place where I was encouraged to try new things.” She also laughed as she explained that two new-to-them favorites were tater tot casserole and monster cookies.
A few years later, she felt the time had come to return to Nebraska. “Family was a huge motivator in my decision. I felt far away and didn’t want to be missing out.” Aubrey was also excited to return to the community feel of the Midwest.
Since landing back in Omaha in 2018, she has been working as a private residence chef. Feeding a family three from-scratch meals daily accounts for her workdays. She has also done consulting projects for restaurants, private lessons, and special dinners.
In fact, a collaboration with Lynn and Daphne Hall has recently brought her full circle to cooking back in Henderson. As the Hall Family hosts events on their farm, Aubrey and her boyfriend, James, have supplied the community with a new food experience. Since her boyfriend is a baker, they make a perfect culinary duo. “I enjoy bringing something fresh to Henderson that isn’t too far out there,” she explained.
While cooking allows for endless creativity, some of her very favorite foods to prepare are vegetables (with the challenge of making people love them), roasted chicken, and Indian food, thanks to a trip to India.
Reflecting on the convergence of her hometown and career, Aubrey depicted, “Growing up in a community with such a rich food heritage shaped my career as a chef. So many events in Henderson were centered around the meal, and the feeling of gathering people together over food always felt and continues to feel magical to me.”
To experience this magic, keep your eyes open for future local events Aubrey will collaborate in.
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