by Elisabeth Torg
Tucked back in the far corner of Reading Terminal Market sits an upstart young business that in just nine months has garnered a 2013 Best of Philly award. It’s Meltkraft by Valley Shepherd Creamery, home to the best artisan grilled cheese sandwiches and small batch cave-aged cheese our city has to offer. Behind the counter and the company’s culinary creations? Chestnut Hill native Rebecca Foxman, 25, Meltkraft’s lead chef and director of culinary operations.
Foxman has some unusual but delicious grilled cheese creations on her menu. Believe me, these are nothing like mom used to make. The most popular sandwich, the “Valley Thunder,” has mac & cheese tucked inside, while another is made with brie, cranberry and pine nuts between slices of toasted brioche. Recently Meltkraft offered the “Fahrenheit 451-Yum Special,” featuring hot pepper jack cheese, pickled spicy green beans and hand-cut French fries. Wow.
Hired by Meltkraft owner Eran Wajswol, Foxman is the force behind Meltkraft’s menu, management and day-to-day operations. She even assisted with the design of the space itself.
If Foxman’s name sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve read about her before in the Chestnut Hill Local. She was featured during the 1997 Meatloaf Mania contest which she entered at the tender age of nine, winning fourth place. When she was 11, she entered the 1999 Chestnut Hill Chili Challenge and won first place in the meat category. Her mother, Barbara Foxman, won first in the vegetarian category, making it a family sweep.
More recently Rebecca appeared in both CBS and ABC Action News clips about Valley Shepherd Creamery, and she was also profiled in MetroPhilly in the May, 2013, article “Hot Chef: Rebecca Foxman of Meltkraft is a Grilled Cheese Expert.”
Foxman’s chef success is no accident. She started cooking young, fell in love with food and never stopped. Recognizing her passion early, she steadily and carefully worked her way to being a full-fledged – and now award winning – chef.
Rebecca began in the kitchen at age of four. “My mom’s a great cook and we have a lot of great cooks in our family, including my cousins and grandparents,” said Foxman, who also did volunteer cooking with her mother, making meals for charities such as MANNA, Ronald McDonald House and Project Home.
In addition to her mother, several other women served as chef role models for Rebecca. She cited her aunt, Anita Hirsch, once designated best chef in Cincinnati and currently the corporate chef at Nieman Marcus. Then there’s Betty Brady, former manager of the bakery at the Chestnut Hill Women’s Exchange. Foxman took cooking classes with Brady from the age of 9, and then went on to work for her in the Exchange bakery. In 2004, Rebecca travelled to Italy with her parents and Brady to attend the Toscana Saporita Cooking School. She was the youngest student there.
Foxman attended Abington Friends School (AFS), which she described as “a great school that fosters kids’ individuality.” The proof was in the proverbial pudding as the school gave Foxman the green light to start a culinary club. For her eighth grade project, her teachers said yes to a somewhat unorthodox topic; Foxman spent an entire semester studying the eggplant. To this day Foxman still feels supported by the AFS community, as several of her teachers attended Meltkraft‘s opening and are regular customers.
After graduating from AFS, Foxman went on to attend the prestigious Culinary Institute of America and then the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. Accepted into an accelerated program, she completed CIA in two years and Cornell’s program in 2 ½ years.
Foxman survived the boot camp-style teaching at the CIA and graduated Cornell in 2011, no small feat for a young woman who has struggled with a learning disability. “I went from being a kid who couldn’t read or do math to attending an Ivy League school.” Her advice for young kids and those with learning difficulties? “If you have a goal in life, don’t wait for things to come to you. Go out and get what you want. I just worked hard on improving myself. My father always said that what’s important is to be the best ‘you’ that you can be. I always lived on that advice.”
Striving to be her best took Foxman to impressive places, fast. After Cornell she was hired by the Four Seasons Hotel Georgetown as a food and beverage manager in-training, meeting the likes of Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan and the New York Rangers.
From there she went to Meltkraft, where she helped the company earn its “Best of Philly” distinction. The food venture has recently expanded to Brooklyn, a move that has brought Foxman new and larger responsibilities as the company chef. Again she’s earned them high honors, as Meltkraft recently had their “Melter Skelter” sandwich named one of Brooklyn’s top 20 sandwiches by Brooklyn Magazine.
What’s next for Foxman? Time will tell. For now she’s happy to be home in Philly, living out her dream of being what she’s wanted to be since she was a young girl: top chef.
More information at 267-639-3309 or valleyshepherd.com/meltkraft