Crystal Rodriguez will always cherish the memories of helping her mother, Helen Moragne Graves, cook. At the age of six, Rodriguez fondly remembers standing at the sink, side by side with her mother, preparing greens for a big family dinner. The right seasonings were always added.
As a child, Rodriguez had a desire to learn how to cook. Her mother noticed and was willing to show her everything she knew.
“My mother knew that I had a passion for cooking, and loved everything I made,” said Rodriguez. She would say, ‘Oh Chris this is so good.’ Whatever I aspired to do she would say, ‘If you want it honey, go for it,’” recalls Rodriguez.
After her mother passed in 2011, Rodriguez said she is still learning how to adjust in preparing meals on Mother’s Day. “I’m okay, but I’m still coping,” she said.
Rodriguez attended culinary school for 3 ½ years at Community College of Philadelphia. After graduating in 2003, with an Associate’s degree in culinary arts, she landed a job as a chef at the Desmond Hotel in Malvern, PA. Rodriguez worked at the Desmond Hotel for nearly nine years. Rodriguez is a certified professional chef and a former member of the American Culinary Federation (ACF). Rodriguez credits Chef Thomas Macrina, now president of ACF, for mentoring her.
On the road to becoming a professional chef, Rodriguez learned that she needed to have a thick skin, deal with all types of personalities, and be able to multi-task and follow directions when given.
Although Rodriguez’ first passion is cooking and working as a chef, her career took a turn when she decided to enroll in the Medical Assistant program at Lincoln Technical Institute. Currently she works as a professional medical biller and is employed in the payroll department for Blessings4Ever, a health care agency.
Following a troubled childhood she experienced grief when she witnessed the tragic death of her best friend of 19 years. In 2007, she fell down a flight of steps. After she landed, Rodriguez lay unconscious at the floor for several minutes. Rodriguez suffered bleeding on her brain, but miraculously no bones were broken. “You’ve got to love God and you’ve got to trust Him,” Rodriguez said of her experiences. “If you don’t, you won’t have anything to hold on to.”
Her husband, Teodoro Rodriguez, encouraged her to start a catering business. In 2015, Crystal Rodriguez launched Crystal’s Catering Experience. One of her specialties is creating fruit baskets for friends. Rodriguez’ motto is that is if you don’t cook with love, you don’t give it your all. Her favorite scripture is, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” Philippians 4:13.
Rodriguez regularly stops in grocery markets to inspect the weekly crop and get ideas for her menu. As soon as watermelons are in peak season, she’ll prepare fruit baskets and anything else her customer’s may request. Her life is in transition, but her cooking skills are poised to remain sharp.