A coal miner’s daughter knows the meaning of hard work. Nothing came easy for young Lisa Ronan growing up in rural western Pennsylvania. She knew from an early age that getting ahead meant pushing herself beyond the limits of satisfactory effort. Lisa’s grandmother set the example and played a huge role in Lisa’s love of preparing food for others by giving Lisa an opportunity to work and learn in their family’s catering business.
Lisa was well on her way to becoming Chef Lu after graduating from culinary school in 1994 and taking her first restaurant job as an intern at Cyrus O’Leary’s in Spokane Washington. She learned what she could there and became restless to travel. To feed her desire to see the country, Lisa toured the U.S. by bus and finally landed in North Carolina in 1997. Once here, she knew she’d found a home in the mountains where she could raise her son, Ned, as well as pursue her love of gardening, canning, fishing and, yes, compound bow hunting.
That same year, she took a job at the Grove Park Inn as line cook and worked her way up to Chef de Cuisine. In 2008 she had the unique honor of serving Barrack Obama when he came to town for a surprise visit. Not one to sit still, Chef Lu seized another opportunity by attending Accounting School and running a family-owned carpentry business until 2011. Yet, the culinary arts remained her calling so she joined Earthfare Supermarkets as Assistant Food Service Manager. Her duties there included the training of employees and the opening of numerous Earthfare delis in out-of-state markets.
It was June of 2012 when Chef Lu was introduced to the Vice President of Delis for Ingles Markets, Mrs. Mixon. The timing was perfect. Ingles Markets was looking to hire a corporate chef and found their star in Chef Lu. Today Chef Lu brings to bear the lessons of hard work by working between ten and sixteen hours a day as Operator and Manager of The Chef’s Kitchen at Ingles.
Chef Lu oversees a team she built. Twenty workers, whom under her direction, work with respect and support for each other to create the harmonious environment required to perform the volume of work they do on a daily basis. Following Chef Lu’s impressive example, her team is responsible for keeping happy more than a thousand warehouse and corporate employees with breakfast, lunch and dinner five days a week, while at the same time catering sporting events, weddings, business meetings, church functions, and more. It’s a job that would exhaust most people, but not Chef Lu. She loves what she does and cares deeply for every member of her team who work diligently by her side.
Her accounting background comes in handy to prevent wasteful preparation. It helps Chef Lu calculate how much food is needed for events where up to six hundred and fifty hungry attendees expect seamless service. All in all, the daily responsibilities of Chef Lu are tremendous. Each day brings new challenges and it’s up to her to meet them head on with grace and balance.
If you’re one of the people who have seen Chef Lu in action or have enjoyed the fruits of her considerable efforts, consider yourself lucky. It’s not often, if ever, that you’ll come across a star that shines this bright.