52 minutes | Jun 16, 2021

Lisa Schroeder: Working twice as hard as the guys, now an award-winning chef in Portland

Read more and view photos here.Lisa Schroeder is a mother, grandmother, chef, restaurateur and author devoted to providing better-than-authentic renditions of traditional home-cooked dishes at her popular, award-winning restaurant, Mother's Bistro & Bar. Lisa is an incredibly hard worker, as all executive chefs are, and she had to work twice as hard as a woman in the kitchen, to be taken seriously. Tragically, five years ago her beloved daughter died in a hiking accident. Now she’s a mother without a living child, which is especially bittersweet given that she’s built an outstanding brand around being a mother and honoring mothers. Mother’s was not an overnight success, even though it opened to rave reviews. Back in 1992, while juggling a marketing and catering career and raising her daughter, Lisa realized no restaurants were making comfort food. She dreamed of a place that would serve “Mother Food” – slow-cooked dishes, such as braises and stews, made with love. From that moment on, Lisa was determined to open such a restaurant and spent the next eight years working toward that dream.A gem on Portland’s restaurant scene (they serve 1,000 people between 8:00 a.m and 2:30 p.m. on Sundays), Mother’s has always been a personal favorite of mine. Lisa also kept herself fully occupied during the pandemic by homeschooling her grandchildren. Tragically, Lisa’s daughter Stephanie, mother of four, died in a hiking accident in 2016 at the age of 36. Lisa shares guardianship with their father.“It's hard enough to be a mother the second time around, but then again, to have to be the teacher was brutal, but they are such good boys and such good kids that it couldn't have gone any better, thanks to them and their sweet nature. I'm grateful I had the time to be able to spend with them and get them through this tough time in a positive way…without them I probably wouldn't have a reason to go on.”The whole city mourned when Lisa, mother of mothers, lost her beloved daughter at such a young age.“It’s really hard to have a restaurant called Mother’s and I don't even have my daughter…it's especially hard at Mother's Day when everybody is celebrating mothers. My whole raison d'etre is to celebrate mothers, and I have nothing to celebrate on that day. It's a very tough day for me, so when COVID was still here this Mother's Day, I actually was glad I didn't have to go to work and get through that day.”I asked Lisa what it’s like to be a woman in the food industry.“Everybody doubts you. They think you're not capable. You won't be able to lift. You won't be able to hang and you always start from a disadvantaged position where people have preconceived notions about your abilities, and then, especially working in four-star kitchens as an older woman in my 30s. I had people expecting me to fail and wanting me to fail and so if there was a pot to carry, I never asked for help. If I had something on the stove, they might turn the burner down for their fellow males, but they'll let mine burn on the stove. I was put to the test a lot and had to be the best, twice as good as the next guy, just to show how good I can be. It's very challenging to be a woman in a kitchen, and that's why anytime a female cook comes to me, I'm eager to give them a chance because I think women are amazing in a kitchen. We were born to juggle many balls, have the baby on our arm, answer the phone, make the dinner and you know, talk to the gardener or something. We're made to multitask.”
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