First up in our LGBT(+) series is professional chef Robyn Butsko. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Robyn loves to travel and make art. She is an animal lover and philanthropist. She believes in spending time with the people you love, even if it means working less.
Name: Robyn Butsko
Company: Hotel Noelle
Preferred Pronoun: She
Who are you, where are you from, what do you do?
I am a chef, traveler, maker of art, animal lover, philanthropist, originally from Columbus, Ohio. I started my culinary career at the age of 17 washing dishes, which gave me an unexpected entrance into the world of hospitality. The creativity and quick pace of the kitchen inspired me. It felt like a sport, and I couldn’t wait to play. I became immersed in all things culinary, and attended the Ohio State University where I studied Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management, and Nutrition, and began my career with Cameron Mitchell Restaurants (from cook to Executive Chef opening up locations around the country). I then moved into the Hotel industry working as Chef de Cuisine for Waldorf Astoria Hotels, before pivoting into the wellness and health world as the Nutritional Services Chef at Florida Hospital. My partner and I then decided to take a sabbatical, and travel the world for a year. We explored, lived, and cooked in: New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam, Bali, Gilli Islands, Argentina, and Israel, eating our way around and through each destination. It informed my palette, culinary knowledge, and understanding of how food can tell deep stories and bring people closer together, more than I could have ever imagined. After about a year abroad, we decided to come back state side, and move to Nashville, TN where I’m currently the Executive Sous Chef at Noelle.
What’s been your journey as an LGBT+ person?
I recognized that I felt different (in a good way!) very early on as a child. The idea of having a wife one day felt as comfortable an idea to me as I’d imagine other girls felt, dreaming of their future husbands.
I don’t remember having one defining “coming out” moment, but rather, a slow transition into making sure those around me knew my truth.
My friends, of course. Then, came my parents. I remember feeling incredibly nervous. Heart pounding. Scared of the unknown potential reactions. I’m so grateful to say that they not only accepted my identity, but unexpectedly, and casually brushed it off as a “Yeah? That’s totally fine. Is there anything else you want to tell me? I need to get back to work” sort of moment. A defining moment in my life summed up to a quick conversation, and BAM it was over. That was that. The older I get, the more I recognize the rarity and beauty of that sort of acceptance; Of it not being a ‘thing’.
It’s my wish that everyone can, not only go on a successful journey of self acceptance, but have the gift of being received in the same way.
How has being LGBT+ impacted your professional journey?
To be honest, I’m not sure if it has. My work life, and personal life have never really interwoven. I’ve tended to keep things private. So, LGBT+ or not… I don’t know if that part of my life would have impacted my professional journey all that much.
What are the biggest challenges you face as an LGBT+ person?
I’m sure, like anyone, we all face the judgement of those with ignorant opinions about the LGBT+ community, or those unwilling to learn, grow, and step outside of their systems and deeply held beliefs. I know I’ve personally felt the impact of this, as many members of my family chose not to attend our wedding and/or be a part of our lives. How do we reconcile this? How do we move forward with positivity? How do we prevent pain from turning into anger and hate? How do we hold onto our love, even through such anger? And I think the answer is through empathy. This is what our community is best at: empathy. We’ve felt the rejection, the judgement, and the pain. These have been the key ingredients in building a community like ours, a tribe of resilient empaths who know how to move forward with fortitude and unity.
It is my wish that, in years to come, hopefully not too long from now, we will see more LGBTQ+ people in positions of influence, or at the very least, being accepted truly and fully.
If you could go back in time and offer 60 seconds of advice to yourself at age 10, what would you say?
You’re going to love what you do for a living one day. Don’t burn out. Spend more time with the ones you love – even if it means working less.
Who are the current change-makers in the LGBT+ community?
I recently watched a documentary about Kristin Beck, a transgender special forces Navy SEAL hero who had served for over 20 years. It was an inspiring story about someone who truly and boldly stepped into their true identity, after a life fighting wars, as this “strong masculine soldier”. This was someone who did not have “celebrity” to hide behind, and had to have an immense amount of courage in order to speak and live her truth. It was just a beautiful story to witness, and it is because of people like Kristin Beck, telling her story, that LGBTQ+ people to come, will have a path a little more paved to walk upon.