Sharon Van Meter is the president of Dallas-based SVM Productions, which specializes in television, radio, and culinary productions.
She got there by way of a storied career in some of the most prestigious kitchens, “I kind of hung out at the Ritz Carlton in Chicago and became their corporate chef and traveled around the world with them. My husband was to move to Dallas and that is how we ended up in Dallas. I went on to become a chef for Neiman Marcus, which was quite the experience. I fell in love with Stanley Marcus. He came into the restaurant one day, and it was the most incredible experience. I could tell something was up—there was excitement in the air and all of a sudden a driver walked in and a man with a cane. And he asked if I had time to sit down for tea. I knew who he was, and I said of course I had time. So we sat down and had tea and he told me all about the company in his eyes—and that was magical.”
Van Meter’s rise to become a world master chef had an unlikely beginning, “I decided at the age of 16 I was going to be a chef. I don’t know why I decided that. I came from an affluent family, and when I told my mom and dad I was going to culinary school, they said absolutely not. So I saved my money and bought a one way ticket and was sponsored into Le Cordon Bleu. When I went to France, I was the only woman in culinary school. There were 573 boys and me! My favorite part was going into the dorm and seeing all these cots. I am like row 3, 36 down. But that wasn’t the worst of it; we went into the johns and I am like 'No, I have to have my own.'”
She quickly learned she didn’t have her own restroom. She remembers coming to an interesting physical reality, “I have to stand! I am in a generation of women equality in the United States at that point, and I go over to France and they are giving me total equality, and I am like I didn’t mean it, I didn’t mean it.”
She graduated and entered very male dominated culinary profession. She says there was plenty of chauvinism. “I can’t even go to some of those stories. But it wasn’t abuse. It was the way of life and a way of doing things. And if I had it all to do over again, I wouldn’t change that because it gave me the determination to really excel. I had to prove myself better. So living in a man’s world is not bad sometimes.”
Now 40 years later, she could retire. Or could she? “I am a grandmother, and I have six grandchildren and another on the way. And I think I would like to spend time with them, but the reality is, I might not be able to do that well--not as well as I do what I do.”