What you may not know is how she got that coveted job, or how superstar Chef Jeremiah Tower played a pivotal role in her making a dramatic career change, or how Darth Vader’s creator played a part along the way, too.
A few months ago, I had a chance to chat with Forberg about all of that and a whole lot more.
Q: You were a flight attendant in 1986 when Jeremiah Tower happened to be on your flight – and that experience totally changed your life?
A: Yes, it was a flight from New York to Nice. I was working economy and he was sitting in first class. I was crazy about Stars. I had his cookbook and cooked all the recipes. He was my idol.
I heard through the grapevine that he was on the flight. When I went up to meet him, he was sleeping, so I didn’t even get a chance to meet him. I had wanted to change careers for so long. It planted the seed. I couldn’t sleep that night. When I got back to New York, I went to a pay phone outside customs at the airport and called the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. And that was that. I quit my job to go to cooking school.
Q: Years later, you wrote him a thank-you note?
A: Over the years, I’ve been interviewed by so many people who ask why I became a chef. Every time, I tell that story. And each time I do, I think that I have to tell Jeremiah Tower since I never even really got to meet him. He wrote back that it was one of the nicest notes he’d ever received.
Q: After cooking school, you landed an impressive first restaurant job.
A: I was on the opening team of Postrio. That was before Wolfgang Puck had so many restaurants, so he was actually there. I trained with him on the sauté and sauces stations, before going to the pasta station, which was very, very busy, because we made everything in-house.
I learned a lot and he greatly influenced my style of cooking. But I had no aspiration to own my own restaurant. Instead, I started moonlighting for private clients in San Francisco who could afford a private chef.
Q: That led to you getting hired by someone quite famous?