Aimee Tortorich is the executive chef for Gov't Taco, a restaurant set to open in the White Star Market on Government Street. In the past, she has worked as a private chef, with LSU and with local restaurants. At Gov't Taco, she'll work with closely with founder Jay Ducote and general manager Therese Schneider to bring creative tacos to Baton Rouge.

How did you develop your love of cooking?

Growing up, my uncle always had a garden. We had chickens in my backyard. Harvesting local vegetables and learning where food came from was instilled in me as a child.

When I was about 18, I was housesitting for my aunt. She had a basket of Roma tomatoes. After watching my mom cook through the years, and the harvesting I had experienced in my childhood, I decided to take a stab at it. I made this beautiful homemade tomato sauce. I thought, “I’m not too bad at this.”

What is a relatively simple dish that you like to make at home?

I can make a curry in about 30 minutes, so a chicken curry would be my go-to meal for comfort food.

What is your advice for aspiring chefs?

I would try to stage (intern) in a restaurant. You really need to get in there and make sure this is something that you want to do, because it does take a lot of hard work.

There are so many different directions you can go. Do research, talk to people in the industry, and try to get as much information as you can before you spend money to go to culinary school.

How can an amateur cook improve?

When you taste your food, pay attention to how ingredients work together. Learn how to balance flavors. If it’s something sour, learn how to balance that, maybe by adding a little bit of sugar.

Read up on techniques. Know different styles, and try to be better every time you cook.

Has being a woman in a male-dominated field affected your career?

No. I’m a Navy veteran, so I’m used to male-dominated industries.

My line is all females, and I think that’s really special. Females can definitely pull their weight.

I think a lot of females almost have to overcompensate to stand out. You may be looked at as a weaker link, just because you are female.

Just keep working hard. I’ve worked on a line with four other guys and have done fine. It’s definitely not a hindrance unless you make it one.